Prince William, a total class act

I’m not a royalist at all. But as I sit here watching a video of Prince William, his wife Kate (Duchess of Cambridge), and their two children, George and Charlotte, walking down the steps of their plane as they arrived yesterday in western Canada, I feel a little bit overwhelmed with emotion.

Why? Because this is the last bastion of real class in terms of elegance, grace and dignity. We could learn from this. OK, so we might not have a royal expense account to keep us kitted out in Missoni, Balmain and Lanvin and, yes, the Royal visits basically involve a lot of posing and platitudes. But in this age of vulgarity, incivility and violence, we could all use a little class and glamour right now.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte arrive in Victoria, B.C., on Saturday, September 24, 2016. Darryl Dyck

I think Prince William is a star. Ever since his mother was killed, here in Paris, in that horrendous car crash caused by the French driver who lost control because he was drunk, my heart has gone out to him. William was 15 at the time, his brother Harry 12. I’ll never forget the expression of utter shame and embarrassment on President Chirac’s face as he greeted Prince Charles on the tarmac at a Paris military airport. Charles had flown over to collect Diana’s body in a plain wooden casket. She was 36 years old. What a tragic, stupid, senseless death (as any death is caused by a drunk driver). I’ll never forget the funeral procession that wound its way through the streets of London on September 6, 1997; the cortege that broke a million hearts. Not a dry eye in the world. The most poignant scene, of course, was that of William and Harry walking behind their dead mother’s coffin as it rode on a gun carriage to Westminster Abbey. So stoic, so British stiff upper lip they were, even at that young age.

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And now William’s all grown up, married and the father of two children. He’s been in the world spotlight his entire life.

In case you’re thinking that the Royals are just a bunch of lazy layabouts, you’re wrong. Research from the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) reveals that the Queen is among the world’s greatest supporters of charities and has helped the many organisations of which she is patron raise over £1.4 billion.

The Queen is patron to 510 charities in Britain, including Cancer Research UK, the British Red Cross and Barnado’s. The wider Royal Family support a grand total of 2,415 charities in Britain, with this figure rising to almost 3,000 worldwide.

 

big Bauhaus exhibition

THE SPIRIT OF BAUHAUS, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

from 19 October 2016 to 26 February 2017

You might think of Bauhaus as a style, or maybe a school of thought. But Bauhaus was an actual school: an institute of design that gave some of history’s most important designers a grounding in aesthetics that continues to influence the way our world looks and works. Called the Staatliches Bauhaus, the school existed in Germany from 1919 to 1933. It was based first in Weimar until 1925, then Dessau through 1932, and then Berlin in its final months. Suspected of publishing anti-Nazi propaganda and documents linking Bauhaus to the Communist party, the school was closed indefinitely in 1933 when the Nazis came to power.

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While its instruction was deeply devoted to functionality, it was among the first to set out and prove that functional need not be boring. Founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany by the prominent architect Walter Gropius, Bauhaus ended up as the most influential modernist art school of the 20th century. It was defined as a utopian craft guild combining industrial design, architecture, sculpture and painting into a single creative expression.

Long after it closed, Bauhaus had a major impact both in Europe and the United States. It was shaped by the 19th and early 20th centuries trends such as the Arts and Crafts movement, which had sought to level the distinction between fine and applied arts, and to reunite creativity and manufacturing. The school is also renowned for its faculty, which included artists Wassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and Johannes Itten, architects Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and designer Marcel Breuer.

The Bauhaus school produced some of the most significant design pieces that have stood the test of time, influencing generations of designers. Here are a few of the most iconic and timeless of Bauhaus design.

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Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich – The Barcelona Chair (1929)

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Wilhelm Wagenfeld – The Bauhaus Lamp (1924)

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Marcel Breuer – The Cesca Chair (1927)

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Marianne Brandt – The Tea Infuser (1924)

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Josef Albers – Nesting Tables

Opening on Wednesday October 19th, a large exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs will pay homage to this artistic movement by displaying original Bauhaus pieces and celebrating the wide-ranging fruits of the influential art and architecture school. No fewer than 900 works and objects from the creative phenomenon will be displayed…

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

107, rue de Rivoli (beside the Louvre)

closed Mondays

Gun Nation

Got 29 minutes? Watch this edifying documentary film released today from The Guardian – A revealing and unsettling journey to the heart of America’s deadly love affair with the gun.

I must admit that some of the comments of the gun owners and gun sellers from the film scare me more than the actual enemy, whoever he or it may be –

“Guns are romantic, they’re emotional.”

“I mean, I hate seeing the shootings happen, but it’s good for business.”

“It’s my birthday and I got a gun for my birthday.”

“I got a .410 shotgun from Santa Claus last year.”

“Here’s a Smith and Wesson rifle, our best-selling item. It’s a fun gun to shoot.”

“My motto comes straight from Cinderella, my favorite movie – Have courage and be kind.”

“I have one by my bed (an AR-15 assault rifle) for home protection. My wife has a Benelli M4 by her bed, which is a semi-automatic shotgun.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2016/sep/16/gun-nation-a-journey-to-the-heart-of-americas-gun-culture-video?INTCMP=inart_docs_gunnation2

out and about…and Lidia Yuknavitch

On my way to dinner on the other side of the city yesterday, I stopped off at one of my favorite haunts, W.H. Smith bookstore on the rue de Rivoli, to see the new books and magazines. It’s nice to see that people still read. Traditional paper books, I mean, and trad magazines of which there were many. It appears that some people today read books from their telephones. Does anyone other than me find this shocking? How can book-reading from a mobile phone offer the same kind of concentrated reading…or pleasure…as from a paper book, or even a larger-screen Kindle?? One of my favorite pleasures in life is hanging out in bookstores. Not to mention the smell and feel of a brand new book and turning its pages. For those mobile phone book-readers, I guess you could say – at least they’re reading, no matter what the device.

“The future of digital reading is on the phone,” says a Simon & Schuster publisher. “It’s not the e-reader that will be driving future book sales, but the phone.”

Anyway, more on W.H. Smith later, plus my dinner in a delightful Sicilian restaurant with my Swedish friend, Andreas. Right now I want to share with you this wholly inspiring TED TALK by author, Lidia Yuknavitch. 

From Wikipedia – Lidia Yuknavitch (born June 18, 1963) is an American writer, teacher and editor based in Oregon. She is the author of the memoir The Chronology of Water, and the novels The Small Backs of Children and Dora: A Headcase.

Yuknavitch grew up in a home where her father verbally, physically, and sexually abused her and her sister, while her alcoholic mother did not intervene. As a teen, she was noticed by a “caring and methodical coach” who helped her move towards her dream of becoming a competitive swimmer…

“I’m a card-carrying misfit,” Yuknavitch says.

I was very moved by this talk, and found this woman to be very courageous.

pizza night, a bottle of rosé, and my godson

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Have I already told you how much I love Friday nights? On my way home from work I picked up a bottle of chilled rosé (5 euros, 60). Then to Picard (gourmet frozen foods) to buy an ultra-thin crust gorgonzola-mushroom pizza. It’s chill time in front of my favorite cult series, Homeland. Just got the Season 5 DVDs.

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Oh, here’s my 4 year-old godson who has nothing to do with Friday night pizza. I found these photos on my memory card. They were taken two weekends ago when I left London for Lille on the Eurostar train. That’s my expensive Shu Uemura lipstick he has on his face. After finding my make-up bag, he helped himself to its contents.

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This little boy is the most self-possessed, pampered, authoritarian 4-year old I’ve ever known. Yes, authoritarian! (he’s a Taurus). Like a miniature Napoleon, he marches around the house telling one and all what to do. The funny thing is is that we all obey.

“Tata Juliet,” he says to me in a commanding tone, “I want to take a bath. You can come, but don’t look.” 

“OK”, I say, obediently (me? obedient?) and follow him down the hallway into the bathroom. I run the Emperor’s bath, being careful to mix the water so that it’s not too hot, not too cold. He undresses. “Don’t look!” he squeals. But the side of the tub is too high and he needs to be lifted up and placed (delicately) into the water. Reassuring him that I’m not looking, I do this with my eyes closed. What, exactly, I’m not supposed to be looking at…oh, a teeny-tiny penis…since when were 4 year-olds so prudish?

Once in the bathwater, his private parts hidden under a blanket of bubbles, I ask if he wants me to rinse and lather his hair. “No!”, he hollers, “I can do it myself.” “OK,” I say, now sitting on a small stool near the door. I watch as he wets a portion of his head, lathers another portion, then sprays the entire bathroom with the hand-held showerhead. I’m wetter than he is.

“I want out now,” he announces. His head is sudsy. Getting him out of the tub requires a deft balancing act between my bending down, clasping his slippery little body, then straightening up (yikes, my painful lower back). He clings to me, frog-like, all the while squealing “Don’t look!”

“I’m not looking!” I squawk back.

I wrap his body in a large towel and his head in a small one. I place his slippers on the rug. He holds my hand while maneuvering his little feet into them. Le Petit Prince. We emerge from the bathroom, him looking serene and happy, me looking like I’ve been dragged through a car wash (without the car).

“Oh, did you have a bath too?” his father says to me.

bye-bye, London, see you soon

I’ve been back in Paris a week now. It’s hard to return to the confines of the office after being free, outdoors, and walking vigorously for ten days. Already I miss the big trees and parks of London. But it’s my salary (plus the generous vacation leave here) that allows me to take my trips, so I’m not complaining.

Speaking of walking, I mentioned in my April New York post that while there I purchased two pairs of super-comfortable REEBOKs. Well, guess what? I bought an even more comfortable pair in London! They’re the latest model and they’re called REEBOK CLOUDRIDE DMX. I paid only £59. I recommend them (tried and tested!) A good walking shoe is important, especially when you walk on pavement.

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Here are some final, random shots of London…until the next time. Thanks for reading.

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It’s a funny thing. When you’re in London you feel like you’re in a separate country, a thriving, cosmopolitan world of its own. Sometimes I forget that the rest of England is attached. So it was with a jolt, while waiting for the Eurostar to take me back to Paris at St. Pancras station, that I looked up at the train departure boards and saw the name of my mother’s native city staring me in the face. Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England. This is where my people are from, on my mother’s side. My father was from further north, from Northumberland County bordering Scotland to the north and the North Sea to the east.

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Fulham Road, food, and Fulham

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There’s a place called Gail’s whose products are to die for. A relative newcomer to London, Gail’s now has 32 locations scattered around the city. Their food and coffee can be summed up in one word: divine. I had breakfast regularly at the shop in the Fulham Road, either a cornbread muffin studded with feta and thyme and a ‘flat white’ coffee to go, or a sit-down to the most delicious bowl of creamy porridge generously drizzled with date syrup. Is it possible to swoon over a bowl of porridge?  Yes.

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I love Fulham because it used to be my ‘hood, my stomping ground. Eleven years ago I was living in SW6, the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. My turf was Fulham Road and the end of King’s Road (called New King’s Road). Below is a photo of the street I lived on, and a photo of the white house I lived in. It was my friend Maya’s house. She went to Kenya for a year and asked if I wanted to live in her house while she was away. I said yes. The timing was perfect because I was in-between jobs in Paris. 2005 was a great year. I worked as a temp in international law firms in Covent Garden and The City. I enrolled in a photography class at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design. It was an evening class and I loved riding home on the night bus, the number 14, always sitting in the front seat on the upper deck. (the best way to see London, my friends, is from the top of a double-decker bus).

I hung out and had a laugh a minute with my friend Sherry. In order to meet men (I really like Englishmen), I went to a singles dating event and ended up meeting Rosemary at the bar (with whom I became friends.) I whizzed back and forth to Paris on the Eurostar. And I walked endlessly, exploring and discovering the diverse boroughs and neighborhoods of this extraordinary city.

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When Maya’s parents emigrated from Poland in the early 1950s, they purchased this house for £1,000.  In 2010, Maya sold it for £850,000. She became a rich woman overnight. But she barely had time to enjoy her newfound wealth because, sadly, she died of lung cancer two years later.

Here are some random photos of houses in the area. Each time I return to London I make a trip to Munster Road to walk by the white house, to say hello to no-one in particular, and to remember old times.

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Another favorite breakfast or lunch spot is Local Hero located at 640 Fulham Road, SW6 5RT. As you can see, the weather was glorious when I was there. Out back there’s a private garden.

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Bacon sandwich, eggs benedict, full English breakfast, porridge. You can’t get any of these in Paris!

I had just purchased three paperbacks from a charity shop for a pound apiece. Charity shops are all over London, there are several on Fulham and New King’s Road. I had the bacon sarny, my friend had the smashed avocado on toast topped with rocket, sumac and chilli.

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stay tuned…more to come.

What is a charity shop? Otherwise known as a thrift store, charity shops raise around £300m a year for a range of causes in the U.K. They sell mainly used goods (clothes, books, household items) donated by members of the public.

Here’s the address of a lovely-looking B&B in this area. I haven’t been there myself, but the reviews are positive.

http://www.londonbedbreakfast.co.uk/