This week… ode to autumn

Autumn is in the air. You can feel it first thing in the morning and late at night. There’s a particular earthy smell in the cool breeze. Leaves are beginning to turn here and there as the sap falls, and the trees prepare for hibernation once again. I’m hopeful that there will be one or two more days of sunshine but they will be fleeting dog days.

The seasons for me are marked in part by food, and at this time of year my taste buds change. Instead of eating unseasonal salads, this week I begin to make rich vegetable soups and spicy curries. I’m looking forward to English apples cooked with cider and cinammon, and fresh green walnuts.

My daily walks lately have been in the wind and rain as Storm Ellen passes through the UK, and Storm Francis forecast for the coming week. I dig out my waterproof outdoor clothing. In fact, I decide to change my entire wardrobe over early this year, laundering and repairing the linens and cottons before putting them into storage. Going through autumn and winter clothes I check for moth damage in the pure wools and cashmeres. I carefully go through the vintage silk scarves too, as the little pests also like to dine on these beauties. Summer shoes go into boxes and bags are stored in cloth covers. I’m overjoyed to see and handle the vintage leather bags once more. Beautiful things are important to me and I take care of my wardrobe using techniques learned from my grandmother. Certain clothes remind me of trips I’ve taken, dinners and events enjoyed, and the people I met.


Like Alice in Wonderland, this week I’ve been falling down the rabbit hole into classic films. Made in a pre-CGI world, the beauty of watching early films is that you know these are staged but that’s what makes them so thrilling to watch, and appreciate the techniques and skill. The same applies to masterful lighting and cinematography in early cinema.

In art, being able to see the brushstrokes of say a Monet, adds enormous value to the experience. This is also true of filmaking and television. I re-run Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy (1979) annually for the sheer joy of Alec Guinness’s delivery of Le Carré’s lines. Of course, there’s much more to enjoy in the miniseries but Guinness is magnificent as intelligence officer George Smiley.

So I was excited to hear about a new exhibition for autumn.

A Titan of Cinema

Remember Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and the incredible fight scene with the sword-bearing skeleton warriors? The fantasy mythological film captured my imagination as a child. I read myths avidly throughout my teenage years, and went on to Minor in Classical Studies as an English undergraduate. The work of Ray Harryhausen (1920-2012) stands the test of time as iconic filmaking that set the scene for modern cinema.

Ray Harryhausen Titan of Cinema at NGS.
Ray Harryhausen’s fighting skeleton warriors from Jason and the Argonauts(1963).

A comprehensive exhibition of Harryhausen’s pioneering and unparalleled work will be coming to the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) next month. Marking his centenary birthday celebration it will co-incide with a specially commissioned publication, Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema, by Harryhausen’s daughter, Vanessa.

The Academy Award-winning artist, designer, visual effects creator, writer and producer, was a trailblazer who elevated stop-motion to an art-form between the 1950s and 1980s. Many of the world’s greatest living filmmakers, among them Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Sir Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, have cited Harryhausen as inspiration for their own filmaking.

Titan of Cinema will feature the original skeleton models from Jason and the Argonauts (1963); the Cyclops from the Sinbad series of the 1950-70s ; as well as Harryhausen’s landmark UFOs from 1956’s Earth vs the Flying Saucers. Among the models on show, are some later inspired films like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Pan’s Labyrinth and Mars Attacks. Plus posters, memorabilia, never-seen-before photographs, storyboard illustrations, drawings and art.

Ray HARRYHAUSEN (1920-2013) on set with Model of the Ktraken from Clash of the Titans, c. 1980. The Ray and Diana Haryhausen Foundation (Charity No. SC001419).

Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (24 October to 5 September 2021) #Harryhausen10

No Man Is An Island

While John Donne’s words resonate with renewed meaning in the modern world it is, it seems, possible to escape the everyday by renting a private island for exclusive use.

The Nautilus, Maldives.

If the idea performing in your very own ‘producton’ of Shakespeare’s The Tempest appeals The Nautilus Maldives offers ‘An Island to Yourself’ packages. These feature exclusive use of the entire island. Each of the 26 Houses and Residences comes with its own private pool. For a special occasion for families or groups of friends, the ‘luxury bohemian hideaway’ does offer something entirely different. An added bonus is that it’s located in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll for that added wow! factor. In addition to the stunning accommodation guests can enjoy a private butler service, unique airside VIP arrival service, return transfers via the resort’s liveried seaplane and a host of additional exclusive benefits. Everyone is ‘free to be themselves, enjoy impromptu adventures and reimagine the island as their own playground’.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Prospero, The Tempest.

Open House Festival 2020

The Crystal Park Palace. Photo Open House.

The annual Open House Festival celebrates the architecture and urban landscape of London and provides a unique opportunity to explore buildings not normally open to the public. A rather different programme this year will include carefully-managed building visits, virtual events and a online film festival.

Some of the buildings that will be opening: One Canada Square. Designed by César Pelli and located at the heart of Canary Wharf. At 1.3 million square feet and 50-storeys the building was the tallest office in Europe when it was completed in the 1990s. They will be allowing socially-distanced tours including access to the 39th floor. The iconic Trellick Tower will be offering resident-led tours of Ernö Goldfingers’ celebrated 1970s Brutalist tower block in Kensington. Now’s your chance to see what Freemason’s get up to. The 1920s Art Deco Freemason Hall, home to the governing body of Freemasonry in England, will be open for socially-distanced visits.

The Stanley Picker House, a 1960s time capsule. Photo the Stanley Picker Gallery.

The Open House film festival will be showcasing buildings that cannot open this year, such as The Stanley Picker House. Located in a quiet cul-de-sac in Kingston the house is a time capsule of the 1960s, beautifully preserved to showcase the art and design object collection of New York artist Stanley Picker.

Full programme and pre-book tickets released 10am on 26 August at Open House.

In my inbox

Sustainable saffron

I recently shared with you the story of James Kerslake, a young entrepreneur responsible for creating Tom Savano Cocktails. This week I came across another creative business owner who believes that giving something directly back to the community is a cornerstone of their dreams.

King of Saffron, Afghanistan.

Like honey and olive oil, amongst other products, counterfeit and contaminated saffron abounds. Harris Qais, a young Afghan-born businessman who grew up in the Midlands with his mother, is on a mission. His aim is to regenerate Afghanistan’s saffron agriculture, and to transform the way the world trades and uses saffron. Firstly, he set out to find the Afghanistan families who have been involved in the trade for generations. Secondly, Harris wanted to ensure quality throughout the entire supply chain, from improving testing capabilities to developing extensive knowledge into what makes the best saffron.

Working directly with the farmers has enabled him to reconnect with the land, the locals and the language. He began King of Saffron, supplying the finest Afghan Saffron to bars and restaurants through a specialist wholesaler, Comesto. While the product is not available direct to consumers, it’s important that we educate ourselves about our food and where it comes from, the impact on the environment, local communities and our own health.

Afghan is now a Protected Designation of Origin for saffron. ‘PDO’ is the name of a geographical region or specific area that is recognized by official rules to produce certain foods with special characteristics related to location. It has been voted the No.1 out of 30 competing saffron regions three years running by the International Taste and Quality Institute.

Harris’s love for Afghanistan and the saffron growing community has been the inspiration to give hope back to those who grew up in a war-torn country, and for future generations.

Wearing art

Art work by Nancy Cadogan. Copyright the artist.

I thought I was past the whole ‘designer face mask’ thing but wearing an original piece of art – in this instance by Nancy Cadogan – is appealing. In the new COVID-age where we all communicate from behind a mask, why not treat your audience to some stunning artwork? A small range of limited edition face masks, incorporating designs from Mind Zero, Cadogan’s breakout 2019 show, have been commissioned by the Belmond Cadogan Hotel for staying guests. Five of the artist’s paintings will feature at the hotel for the remainder of this year.

Nancy Cadogan face masks commissioned by Belmond Cadogan.

Nancy’s paintings focus on the everyday and the beauty to be found everwhere in the simple things. This is my ethos entirely and, while I have no artistic skills whatsoever, I aim to capture those moments and feelings in my photography and writing.

British figurative painter, Cadogan, has been working from her home studio in Northamptonshire throughout the global lockdown, preparing for an upcoming exhibition, Gusto, launching in Rome later in the year.

Nancy was named as one of the ‘Top 20 New British Art Talents’ in 2008 by Tatler magazine, describing her as ‘the new Paula Rego’. She came to global attention in 2019 with two summer exhibitions – Mind Zero and Footnotes. The Evening Standard Magazine has described her work as “heaven on canvas”.

I finish this week by sending prayers and best wishes to everyone in California where they are battling the second largest outbreak of wildfires in the region’s history. I simply cannot imagine the scale of what you must be going through but may it come to an end soon.

That’s the round-up for this week. I’d love it if you shared your own discoveries in the comments. Have you heard of any really unusual exhibitions, enjoyed a particular photograph or explored a beautiful garden? Please share. Stay safe and well.

As always please check the Foreign travel advice web site for the latest on international travel guidelines.

Unless otherwise stated, I have no affiliation with the brands mentioned but simply aim to share places and products that have caught my eye. I will always state if a post is sponsored or gifted.

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