Saturday, 17 November 2018

Sale room practices.

For a while in the mid-60's I was the manager of a small Art Gallery in Devonshire Street W1.

My boss, Miklos, had been to view a nearby sale, and I'd been given the job of going to bid for several lots he'd earmarked; one of which was a large portfolio of early (or old) etchings.

I bought the portfolio well under his maximum price, and returned to the gallery, complete with another couple of lots.

Miklos immediately started to search through the portfolio, becoming angrier and angrier as he realised that the one etching he'd wanted was missing. It had been placed amongst a load of more ordinary prints to attract bidders; then carefully removed. Such practices, sadly, were commonplace in those days.

However, in amongst the less interesting prints he discovered a very small black and white print that attracted his attention. It was about 4 by 5 inches in size (the image even smaller), and quite amateurishly etched. It illustrated a battle, with two 'cherubs' holding a swag depicting the location and date. It was not particularly inspiring.

I'm afraid I've forgotten the exact details, but it illustrated a skirmish from the American civil war, and looked to be very rare. It might even have been a sole surviving example.

I was instructed to take it to The Parker Gallery in Albemarle Street, and to ask for £500 (a lot of money in those days). The Parker Gallery was (and probably still is) one of those lovely old-fashioned Oak-panelled galleries that only dealt in the finest and rarest.

They looked at it under a magnifying glass, held it to the light, passed it around, then asked how much I wanted for it. I was almost embarrassed to ask for the £500, but I did so. They didn't flinch!

To my amazement they wrote me a cheque and the deal was done. I came out feeling that, had I asked for £1,000 they would probably have paid it. It must have been an extremely rare print.

Its sale made the missing etching from the portfolio seem unimportant; and we still had about another 100 etchings to sell.

p.s. I'm afraid the illustration above is nothing like the etching, but I couldn't find anything more suitable.

Friday, 16 November 2018


After shopping, recently, we passed a field of Cows with a few Egrets standing by.

There seems to be a lot more of these lovely birds around than I remember.

I immediately said to Lady Magnon "I wish some of them would come to live around us".

That same afternoon we saw five Egrets down with the Horses. It was almost as if they'd heard my request. We've never seen them here before.

Since then I've counted about ten. I disturbed them up in a tree recently whilst walking the dog.

They really are the most elegant and beautiful birds. I know they're not rare, but having them settle in our tiny hamlet is wonderful. 

I hope they stay and multiply.

Thursday, 15 November 2018


I rather stupidly left some grapes on the vines, over the entrance to our covered terrace, simply because I couldn't easily reach them.

Of course the Hornets have recently found them, and we've been inundated by hundreds of the wretched things.

I always hang these simple traps for them; some beer, some jam, and maybe some wine, and they can't resist.

I had quickly filled the first two large jars with them, and this morning tipped the victims away. I refilled with beer and jam, and by about mid-day, I had already caught the dozens above.

I must have killed hundreds of them; more than usual. Their nest (I haven't found it yet) must be completely empty.

Even though I respect all 'wildlife', I don't regret my actions; but I do feel some guilt.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Happy Birthday.

Prince Charles is 70 today.

Charles and I have grown up together. Ever since my mother first bought me National Savings stamps featuring his portrait, I have lived in parallel to him; without us ever meeting.

To me he has simply been the 'heir to the throne'; a role adopted by accident of birth, that cannot have been his natural choice.

He, along with his sister, are possibly the hardest working members of the royal family. He has several appointments every day, several changes of dress, and often works well into the night on official matters.

He has managed to avoid repeating the unfortunate gaffs of his father, yet has inherited the regal bearing of his mother. He has learnt the job without complaining; at least, not in public.

His legendary love of nature, and tireless campaigning against all things polluting, brought him much criticism and ridicule from his urban detractors, but most now understand the importance of his life-long concern, and even campaign alongside. 

I like Charles. A friend of mine who was at school with him always described him as 'charming', as do those I know, who have met him briefly on official duties. I don't think there is any question that he will make an excellent head of state.

So, I wish you a very Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness, and may you enjoy many more. Cro x

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Winter Sun.

At this time of year one expects to be cold, so sunny days are even more welcome than waking up to the hot and sunny days of high Summer. Eating outdoors at mid-day in November is a real bonus.

I was putting away my 'evening' shorts recently, and, when emptying the back pocket, came across €170 in banknotes that I'd totally forgotten about. The pleasure I received was very similar to experiencing our warm sunshine at the moment. It is the unexpected which gives far more pleasure than the expected.

On so many occasions I've been invited out specially to meet someone who I would 'love and find totally fascinating', only to be bored to bloody death. On other evenings, that I've dreaded, I've discovered someone genuinely fascinating, who was the saviour of the day.

I've been to numerous hyped-up restaurants, and eaten badly, and to greasy-spoon dives where I've eaten like a king.

I've also been to fancy expensive concerts of all sorts, and been disappointed; yet listened to street buskers who were magnificent.

So, I'm enjoying our Indian Summer, and am taking full advantage. My Vitamin D tank is slowly filling for 'slow-release' over Winter.

Monday, 12 November 2018

To buy bread.

The house just behind my baker.

The road on the way home.

The bread.

My regular Sunday morning activity; to buy bread for the week.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Remembrance Day: Lest we forget.

Today is Remembrance Sunday. Exactly 100 years since the end of WW1, and at 11 am we shall remember the dead by holding a two minute silence. Of course there now remain no more ex-combatants. 

Now we tend to remember the 'old soldiers' from World War 11, where there were so many outrages committed, that it is difficult to highlight just one.

However, one that is very little known is that of Budapest, where Jewish women were taken by the Germans to the edge of the Danube, told to remove their shoes, and were callously shot. Their bodies falling into the river below. Around 20,000 women were murdered this way.

Artists Can Togay and Gyula Pauer have created this memorial (above), consisting of 60 pairs of cast-iron shoes, so that those poor tragic Hungarian women are never forgotten.

On 'Remembrance Day' we tend to think mostly of the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died during the two world wars, but there were countless more victims from other nations who also deserve to be in our thoughts.

Those poor innocent women are just one such group; victims of appalling, and senseless, German barbarity. 

Let those victims (and their perpetrators) never be forgotten. RIP.

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