Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A Book to Read in a French Restaurant in London while eating Creme Brulee and Macarons

Posted By Daisy
'East End Faces', Sunday Times Magazine 1968; Bailey's Stardust

LAST WEEK, I did lots of lovely London things.

On Thursday, I went to Bailey’s ‘Stardust’ in the National Portrait Gallery. It was so relaxing wandering around looking at the photographs with lovely music playing in the background.

Afterwards, I met my friends for drinks at ‘Lateshift’ in the lobby. It felt very ‘Sex and The City’ wandering around the gallery, glass of cava in hand. Especially when a friend of a friend introduced herself with a limp handshake, elevator-eyed my leopard print dress and brogues (I thought I looked the part anyway!) and said smoothly ‘What do you do?’ Blunt as you like. What I really wanted to say was ‘Oh, is that question back in vogue again, haven’t heard it since 1985’, but of course I was so taken aback, I ended up sounding like a spluttering fool.

My brother in law told me that when he had an important decision to make recently, he climbed the stairs in the Great Hall of the Natural History Museum, and thought ‘How could one not strive for greatness in a place as beautiful this?’

It was even better with less crowds last weekend. Myself and a friend attended the ‘Beautiful tour there on Valentine’s night. We had drinks and snacks, and did a mini tour of the museum.
A geologist showed us the beauty of the solar system, and rocks.

The Blaschka Collection
Another scientist showed us tiny glass sculptures of sea creatures from the Blaschka collection. She passed one around to the audience in a box, and as we heard the soft thwunk of a glass ornament hitting the carpet, we all turned around to hear muffled apologies and a girl hiding her head in her boyfriend's jumper.

A very entertaining zoologist showed us lots of photographs of hideous-looking fish. He talked about the sea horses mating dance (where the female woos the male), and about fish whose bodies light up deep in the ocean.

On Saturday night, we drank cocktails and ate olives and salted almonds in the gorgeous Rivoli bar at the Ritz, where we people-watched with the rest of the tourists sampling a piece of the high-life. There was a middle-aged woman in a risqué red sequinned dress, a man in a jacket holding a chair for a beautiful woman wearing a full length fur coat over her little black dress, and a friendly, fresh-faced waiter from Dublin.

Afterwards, we went to one of my favourite, totally un-ritzy restaurants, across the road in Shepherd’s Market, L’Artiste Muscle, to eat boeuf bourguignon and crème brulee. On a recent weeknight trip there, I heard a posh businessman thanking the waiter for ‘the best snails I’ve eaten in my life.’ 

This week however, I've spent lots of time babysitting. And learned something about the simple pleasures of life.
‘I’m so happy’, my 3-year-old nephew told me.
‘Why’, I asked.
‘Because I found my red digger book,’ he exclaimed, as if it was the most obvious reason in the world.
'TransAtlantic' by Colum McCann
Elevator Pitch: Two men cross the Atlantic in a tiny plane, a former American slave tours Ireland as famine begins, an Irish maid takes a ship to New York and builds a new life, a senator brokers a historic agreement, there’s death in an ice house, and an ancient letter is finally opened – there are so many fictional and historical stories intermingled in ‘TransAtlantic’, it’s difficult to remember them all.
And although I really enjoyed reading this, I just don’t think I’ll remember it in the same way as I remember ‘Dancer’ or ‘Let the Great World Spin’.



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