London Diary: Finale

Less than 48 hours left in Londontown, and, yes, I was running out of steam.  We were still in bed recuperating from the long boozy night before when Maeve rang.  A pub lunch?  Why yes, that sounds just the thing.

 photo from Flickr here

Not any old pub of course, but the Black Friar which retains its 1904 Art Nouveau interior, complete with pink and green marble walls and bronze bas-reliefs illustrating how a life dedicated to God doesn't mean neglecting earthly pleasures.  A hair of the dog indeed as I sampled a pint of British ale along with a scrumptious shepherd's pie. We parted ways and I hopped on the tube to Sloane Square for my date with the Emma Hope shoe sale.

My heart was in flutters and my palms moist as I anticipated all the beaded, embroidered low- and mid-court pumps waiting for me.  Sadly it was not to be as not one pair successfully seduced me.  I was bereft only for a moment as I had an even bigger delight waiting ahead.

Just behind Peter Jones is a cobble-stone paved road lined with old carriage-houses - it is here that Nicky Haslam has his design office

 The sensationally chic Colette with Nicky Haslam

While Nicky (if I may) was sensibly in Mustique, his brilliant design director Colette van den Thillart poured glasses of port all around.   Behind Colette's desk was the most thrilling inspiration board displaying her penchant for everything from surrealism to John Fowler.  (Click here to discover what's on her mind this very second.)

While she strangely didn't pick up on my hints that I would be quite happy to live in one of the office's closets, she did show me Nicky's office.

Utterly charming watercolors of proposed interiors by Nicky's hand hang on the wall and made me think - is there anything this man can't do?

Our last dinner in London was in bohemian Islington.  Our friends Jake and Lindsay Attree who were in town from Yorkshire joined us for a fabulous Italian meal at Canonbury Kitchen.  If the waiter insists on sharing his advice on the menu, take it - he will steer you to the heavenly rather than just excellent.

 A painting by Jake Attree

Jake is a Royal Academy-trained artist who - subversively? - embraces the idea of beauty and sees the fine and decorative arts as equal.  He passed along this quote of Agnes Martin: "All art work is about beauty.  All positive art work represents it and celebrates it.  All negative art protests the lack of beauty in our lives."


You will be shocked to read that our very last meal in London was McDonald's.  I know.  Clearly it was time to go home.  But wait - as we were exiting, Mr EEE spied a sign with an arrow to Dr. Johnson's House.   We followed the covert passages to the c. 1700 brick house where Johnson wrote the first English dictionary between 1749-58.  

The curators have used a light hand in furnishing the rooms, which is all to the good.  The result is that one experiences the space more directly and - so one feels - authentically.  Off to the airport, our step hastened by this statue of Hodge, Johnson's kitty cat, 

which reminded us of our three guys waiting at home.


Thank you for indulging this account of a very special trip.   If you are still reading, you get a prize!  It is Colette's "special haunt": the Dennis Severs' house which has been described to me as a work of art.  It is only open Monday evenings for candlelight tours so arrange your trip accordingly.  I didn't, so please tell me everything when you come back.