Weekend Review – Candy floss and tutus
Sometimes when a weekend is so bounteous in treats, both planned and unplanned, it becomes a chore to try and sift through the experiences and feature one or two on my blog. And since the alternative – which is to write about none of them – does not sit well with the spirit of blogging, nor indeed with what is, after all, meant to be an epnoymously daily blog (although admittedly I’m not currently doing all that well on that front…) I thought I’d just tell you about the whole darn lot!
So, on Friday afternoon, as the clock hand clicked past 5 and I started to feel the rush of weekend relief fill my worked-out body, I rushed home to start the weekend. For me this meant three things: First the completion of my new painting, “Composition I”, an entirely new direction of painted expression (which I’ll try to post up on the blog in a few days time) with which I have discovered gouache paint for the first time. It’s a work inspired partly by the Choucair exhibition I attended last weekend and partly by a typical luncheon by the sea in Marbella, with squid, and patatas – the perfect weekend on any view.
But back to Blighty, and with paint brushes put aside and a wooden spoon picked up in their place, I commenced cooking up a risotto feast – the perfect creamy end of week pleasure, and a good one for using up odds and ends of food after a week’s exhaustion of supplies. In this case it was half a packet of palma ham, some rather old chorizo, a few tomatoes, half a bulb of fennel and a little fresh mint which made it into my rather indulgent left-overs risotto. And what a treat to eat it al fresco too, on our warm London balcony, watching commuters aplenty passing by, the majority with a bounce in their step, overjoyed as we were that the weekend had come at last.
But as ever the al fresco air inspired us to go out into the open air in search of dessert, and a walk across the vast expanse of Clapham Common and back towards Northcote Road in the Clapham Junction area brought us to a new entrant on the restaurant-lined street. In place of what had once been a rather chic Austrian eatery is now a cute little Spanish restaurant AND sherry bar, Rosita. Unsurprisingly we headed straight for said sherry bar in search of our dessert. The fact that we then ended up with two glasses of wine and a few savoury tapas dishes was perhaps inevitable, but dessert did eventually follow, in the form of deep friend sweet potato cakes in a honey syrup. Delicious.
Now too fat to move, we bemoaned our over indulgence and returned home, exhausted, to bed.
Saturday started early, so I could get on with another exciting art project I am doing for a certain large restaurant chain in Mallorca. But my lips are sealed at the moment on that front. So working through till around 4pm, I felt fully entitled to take a break and head to the fun fair when my Mother arrived in town. Her visit, and the arrival of a rather unique old-fashioned steam fair on Clapham Common was something of a coincidence, but meant that my partner and I could show her something a little more exciting than the local duck pond. The fair was like a trip down memory lane – for me, in my late 20s, I’m perhaps not old enough to draw on memories of when steam fun fairs were a commonplace sight, but it certainly reminded me of the fairs of literature and of old movies. Seeing the huge elegantly painted carousel reminded me of Hitchcock’s great film Strangers on a Train, and the final scene in which the evil protagonist of the tale meets his end on one such attraction.
Luckily for us, we did not meet such a demise at this wonderfully charming old fair, but certainly did meet with our old childhood selves, unable to resist the temptation to mount the horses of the carousel, to rock back and forth on the swing boats, and, in the case of my mother, to ride on her bottom all the way down the slippery slope of a helter-skelter!
We were having so much fun that we were almost late to the main event – the purpose of my mother’s visit – a trip to the Royal Opera House to see the dark and deeply dramatic ballet, Mayerling, in which our close family friend, brilliantly gifted ballet star Francesca Haywood, was starring as Princess Stephanie. Mayerling, a ballet choreographed by the late Kenneth MacMillan in 1978, is a deeply moving, often harrowing depiction of the true story of the suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary and ensuing scandal and coverup of his death in 1889.
The ballet focuses on the desperation of the Crown Prince (danced superbly by Edward Watson) trapped in an unhappy marriage and caught between political extremes, and the last increasingly erratic moments which eventually led to his suicide with mistress lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera. But asides from moments of high tension, the staging by the Royal Ballet provided audiences with an exquisitely lavish insight into the dying decades of the great Austro-Hungarian empire, with its elegant balls, fine gowns, opulent surroundings and decadently loose morals. It was a stunning performance whose end left everyone chilled and fascinated in equal measure. It’s even more interesting when you think that if this poor troubled prince had not killed himself, his successor, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, may never have come to the throne, and the First World War, which was precipitated by the latter’s assacination, may never have occurred. What a different Europe we might live in then.
The weekend ended, as weekends should, with a Sunday of jazz, of supplement-crammed newspapers and of a long lazy lunch, which for us took place in the lofty light-filled space of the 5th floor restaurant at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge. There, a delicious shared mediterranean platter, complete with goats cheese crostini, quail and prawn “scotch eggs”, and unctuous chorizo topped with melted manchego was followed by a deliciously moist breast of Devonshire chicken with an apricot and yoghurt sauce – I persuaded myself that this made it healthy. But any attempts at eating light were blown out of the window soon enough, by a creamy vanilla cheesecake with super sweet strawberries and lemongrass, and a coconut pannacotta.
We tried to escape central London without spending any more money, but sadly a set of Orla Kiely egg cups in Chelsea’s Peter Jones department store cried out to me. And happily so – for they were put into immediate use later that afternoon as Sunday turned into night, where you find me now, hurriedly regaling my weekend before preparing for work tomorrow. Frankly I think a 2 day weekend is just unreasonable – last week’s bank holiday extension was far more to my liking, but no one can accuse us of not enjoying this one to the full – from candy floss at the steam fair, to dancing ballerinas – it had it all.
Until the next one then… have a great week!