Monthly Archives: September 2008

ON the castle trail again

Had a quick visit to my old friends at Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan and to interview Sammy Leslie about her unrivalled collection of Victorian wcs, for my column in The Field magazine, out next month. It turned into quite a party with friends and neighbours piling in, conversations about ghosts, Afghanistan, nutrition, and one fellow over from Cannes, playing songs on the guitar late into the night; I slept in the bedroom which once formed part of the governess’s flat in the attic, with wonderful views over the lake. Its such a peaceful place and the gardens have been improved and the old billiard room and library restored since I was last here. Sammy has done wonders.

 

Also called in at Mount Stewart to get a flavour of the place where famous butler Arthur Inch worked as a footman. Torrential rain but the grandeur of the palce and the glamour of the Londonderrys palpable. Back home to work on the servants’ book, making wonderful discoveries all the time – I only wishing I could find a way to be in five different places at once. See my article on Rycote published in Country Life which is gratifying as I enjoyed writing about it and found out one or two new things. See the new watercolour exhibition of paintings from the Cecil Higgins collection in Bedford, some real gems, and catch up with various friends. One of the greatest treat of the week is being asked to preview the Osbert Lancaster show at the Wallace Collection, pure joy: I am in awe of his talent and wit which still seems fresh today.

 

IN search of butlers and Osbert Lancaster

Had a quick visit to my old friends at Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan and to interview Sammy Leslie about her unrivalled collection of Victorian wcs, for my column in The Field magazine, out next month. It turned into quite a party with friends and neighbours piling in, conversations about ghosts, Afghanistan, nutrition, and one fellow over from Cannes, playing songs on the guitar late into the night; I slept in the bedroom which once formed part of the governess’s flat in the attic, with wonderful views over the lake. Its such a peaceful place and the gardens have been improved and the old billiard room and library restored since I was last here. Sammy has done wonders.

Also called in at Mount Stewart to get a flavour of the place where famous butler Arthur Inch worked as a footman. Torrential rain but the grandeur of the palce and the glamour of the Londonderrys palpable. Back home to work on the servants’ book, making wonderful discoveries all the time – I only wishing I could find a way to be in five different places at once. See my article on Rycote published in Country Life which is gratifying as I enjoyed writing about it and found out one or two new things. See the new watercolour exhibition of paintings from the Cecil Higgins collection in Bedford, some real gems, and catch up with various friends. One of the greatest treat of the week is being asked to preview the Osbert Lancaster show at the Wallace Collection, pure joy: I am in awe of his talent and wit which still seems fresh today.

Florence and Siena

Back from Tuscany which still casts a magic spell on me; I spent some time working on a farm here in the 1980s and then visited again and again in my early 20s, mesmerised by architecture, landscape and way of life, probably in a very naïve way. The first week was in an old farmhouse 30 miles north of Florence, wonderfully remote and with views of an old world landscape out of every shuttered window. No distractions, so a lot of reading and playing cards and cooking meals over a long time to eat on the terrace. The English owners had done the house very beautifully (see www.columbinehall.co.uk/ilpozzo) and I enjoyed both old fashioned detective thrillers and 19th century memoirs of aristocrats from their shelves. We did spend one day in Florence, and enjoyed the views from Piazzale Michelangelo when we arrived by car and parked, and left after seeing the sunset from the same positition. We went on a splendid horse and carriage ride round the streets, which slows you down and makes you look up, over the heads of the crowds and we also had a wonderful set menu lunch in a very non touristy place called Zio Gigi, on the Via F Portinari. The Boboli Gardens for a siesta and the Uffizi after an ice-cream and wander along the river. The second week was perhaps 15 miles south of Siena in an agriturismo apartment in an old castello, with a pool shared with two other families, again very peaceful and swimming took over. It was flatter country too so I could run every morning and snoop around abandoned farmhouses dreaming of owning one, for holidays anyway. Siena was busy but beautiful and the rest of the family climbed the tower of the Palazzo Pubblico while I sketched in the Piazza del Campo. One of our best evenings was in Pienza, visiting the charming central square and then having supper in a square, after a day visiting thermal pools with an artist friend Malgozia Levittoux who lives nearby.