Hometown news

Dear friends and family,

Our meeting with Obama made Leah Garchik's column in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Our thanks to my friend since childhood, Deborah Hoffman for alerting Leah, and to Leah Garchik for her accurate reporting of the events. 

Woke up after a great sleep in our London hotel. I was a little worried after waking up at 10:30 pm, wide awake and totally confused about whether it was 10:30 in the morning or evening. Did manage to get back to a great sleep after typing away on the email. Good thing Don is a champion sleeper.

Spent the morning answering emails and actually doing some work. Kiki Smith is having a show or series of shows in Europe which include her tapestries, so a lot of writing back and forth between her studio, the different venues, shipping, details on the pieces.

Hopped on the tube, where Don looked around and said, "Hmmmm…they look like my distant relations… pale, fleshy and yearning for some sunshine."

Not too pale, and I won't comment on the fleshy.

Took the tube to the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace; an amazing show from the Queen's collection of many Holbeins and Durers. As Don said, "If you're going to see someone's art collection, you might as well go to the richest person in the world." Amazing to be able to put your nose right up to the Holbeins and see the stray hairs, e.g. here on Hans of Antwerp. The museum guards were remarkably tolerant.

This amazing sketch is painted, incredible mastery of the brush. A study by Durer for a woodcut.

Some of the work was commissioned by the Queen's illustrious ancestors, some gifted, and some simply confiscated on the death or execution of some out-of-favor subject. It all adds up to quite a collection.

Chuck told us that one can tell that Durer did not cut his own wood blocks or engravings as so much crosshatching is used, a painstaking method of achieving a shadow in an engraving (as the lines are not cut, the engraver cuts the small spaces between the lines). After seeing these prints, I don't know how you could talk or pay anybody to cut in this minute detail. Whoever cut these was clearly a master and clearly loved cutting the marks. It reminds me of the stories of the Emperor of China's seamstresses going blind embroidering his and other aristocrats' court costumes. I felt like I could damage my eyes just looking at the detail on these prints.

St. Jerome in his study.

A detail from St. Jerome. In real life this section of the print is about 2 inches wide. 

Left the Gallery, passed by Buckingham Palace, and unbidden, there popped into my head a ditty by E.E. White, which my mother used to read to us:

They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace
Christopher Robin went down with Alice
Alice is marrying one of the guards
A soldier's life is terribly hard
said Alice

That's all I remember, and it goes on, the sergeant is in charge of their socks, etc. So cute. Freezing walk to Covent Garden.

Had a wonderful meal at Polpo, billed as Venetian style cichetti. It's on Maiden Lane near Covent Garden. I had a Negroni and Don had the lovely young waitress make him his own version of a Spritz: white wine, Campari, juice of half a lime and some bitters. 

Also had some spicy chili prawns, salads, arancini, the works. We got a call from our dear French friend, Annie Salt: Jonathan was flying into London on his way to Croydon. He wanted to meet up with us. At the end of the meal we got a call from Jonathan; he was at the bar in our hotel.

Rushed back. So good to see him.

Telling Jonathan about our meeting with Obama; how friendly and open he was, especially in contrast to how harsh, aggressive and dominating the secret service were. Jonathan commented that in England the guards would be firm, but polite. He said American officials are always rude and shouting. He thought it was their military training. How did we develop into such rude and arrogant people (some of us)? 

Jonathan also told us that he had given Annie a Salt family signet ring just like this (generations old), which she had lost for 3 and a half years. She had put in "a safe place", which I can tell you from experience is a dangerous thing to do. They searched everywhere to no avail. Then one day he saw a glint of something when maintaining a fixture near their swimming pool. He emptied it out and there was the ring. I'm not at all counting on such a thing happening, but it's always possible.

Received this lovely quote from Chris S. (not my old boyfriend, the husband of Candida). 

I read this passage about a coveted and precious ring that the owner was reflecting on:

"I may have coveted it all my life and I do love it, but as I hold it up to the sunshine and watch it sparkle I wish that it was somehow back on my mother’s hand. Destiny can be about realising that what we love most are people and the things that make them happy. Without the people their things are just things…"
Yes, we are not our things. We are all something much, much more than that.

Now on a train to Lyme Regis -- why? Not sure, exactly. Something about wanting to take some long walks in the beautiful British countryside. Something about going South where the weather might be a little better. Something about the name of the place; Jane Austen had some of her characters visit there, also it's on the Jurassic Coast, another intriguing name. Something about finding a great looking B&B there. We will let you know.


Era and Don