This week… bling, boats and broken biscuits

You know how news bulletins always end with a ‘feel-good’ story? Well, this week I’m opening by shining a light on positive news, inspired by the contents of incoming emails recently focusing on paying it forward. Sometimes we’re not in a position to repay a kindness directly but a time will come, in the near or distant future, when we’re able to pass on that goodwill to another, and possibly in a different form. It might be as simple as passing on a theatre ticket you’re not able to use or a voucher for a complimentary coffee. It always lights up my day when it happens to me and I enjoy paying it forward when the opportunity presents itself.

In a former career, in the early Noughties I developed the Corporate Responsiblity strategy for an iconic British brand. It wasn’t seen as a particularly ‘sexy’ role within the motor manufacturing industry back then, but I’ve always liked a challenge. It strikes me anew that I was very privileged to have a unique opportunity to be involved in making a difference back before it became mainstream. I also had a lot of fun working with a diverse community of people. Given the option, I’ve always chosen to work behind the camera, so I appreciate that truly altruistic actions don’t necessarily need recognition. But in these difficult times it’s more important than ever to recognise the good stuff.

South Cardamom National Forest

Shinta Mani Wild in the Cambodian Forest. Photo courtesy Shanti Mani Wild.

The mountains in the South Cardamom National Forest are home to 54 animals on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (IUCN). As the forest cover disappears, so does the wildlife. The Wildlife Alliance, an international non-profit organisation, works to protect the forest from illegal logging and poaching.

The Butterfly Tent at Shinta Mani Wild. Photo courtesy Shanti Mani Wild.

The Shinta Mani Wild is both an eco hospitality lodge and conservation project. They fund a dedicated Wildlife Alliance ranger station within the tented camp, and guests are able to participate in their daily work, although ‘arresting poachers and loggers’ sounds a little scary.

The camp does not have any single use plastics, bottle their own water, use recycled containers and support the local community.

“You would think that maintaining just 15 tents, cooking a bit of food, and going for the occasional bike ride might require a handful of staff? Well, in fact, we employ about 120 good folks, 70% are from the local village and some of those were poaching and illegally cutting trees.” Bill Bensley, co-founder, Shinta Mani Wild.

L to R: The Bamboo Collection and Temple Flower Collection by Kate McCoy.

A new collaboration between Bensley and Australian jewellery designer and gemologist, Kate McCoy, aims to raise funds for the Wildlife Alliance. Kate has created “Nature’s Treasury” of seven heirloom collections using natural, rare and ethically sourced jewels. Handmade, using 18 karat gold by master craftsmen, these pieces are incredibly beautiful. I’m not sure where one would feel comfortable wearing some of these magnificent jewels but they are works of art.

Prices range in price from USD 1,700 – USD 30,625 and each purchase contributes to the environmental legacy. As an example, the Bamboo Collection ring at USD 4,875 protects twenty five per cent of Shinta Mani Wild forest and its wildlife (210 acres) for 49 days. Should you feel tempted this Christmas, an additonal incentive to support this cause is a special purchaser’s discount on a minimum three-night stay at Shinta Mani Wild. Check the web site for full terms and conditions.

Human connection

‘WRAP estimates annual food waste arising from UK households, hospitality and food service…at around 9.5 million tonnes…and would be associated with more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions’. Wrap Food Surplus & Waste in the UK, Key Facts, January 2020.

StreetBox ‘Buy a Box, Give a Box’ scheme. Photo StreetBox.

Beginning with the aim of redefining attitudes, specifically that fresh surplus produce is not waste, Edible London (a Community Interest Company) is working to repurpose bumper crops and cosmetically ‘inferior’ food. The latter refers to the oddly shaped fruits and vegetables, for instance, that supermarkets insist shoppers won’t buy. I’d welcome the opportunity to buy a mixed box of organic misshapen produce. As an aside, when I was a child, Woolworth’s sold broken biscuits all jumbled together and weighed by the scoop. If you were lucky there were a few chocolate ones in your bag!

Before the pandemic this so-called surplus produce would have been used by caterers, restaurants and pubs, with Lockdown resulting in an increase in surplus food going to waste. Edible London began an operation redistributing food to those most in need in their community.

London grocer, StreetBox, will be donating 500 boxes of surplus fruit and veg to Edible London to distribute to their charitable network in North London and beyond. StreetBox was born from a family owned, traditional greengrocers trading in the area since 1991. Their ‘Buy a Box, Give a Box’ initiative means that for each Sociable box sold, another identical box goes to an organisation like Edible London, as well as Mutual Aid Groups or other charitable organisations. In addition, for each of their boxes recycled or reused, 50p goes back into the scheme to provide more boxes and fund other community projects.


Lost Hokusai drawings acquired by the British Museum

Newly discovered, Hokusai ‘Cats and hibiscus’. A stand-off between two cats, with hibiscus (fuyō) behind. Photo courtesy The British Museum.

The British Museum has acquired 103 drawings by Japanese artist Hokusai. The newly-rediscovered drawings were created in 1829 as illustrations for an unpublished book Great Picture Book of Everything. Hokusai was an important observer of human behaviour so, coincidentally, the book title sounds entirely apt for a lifetime of work by this famous Japanese artist.

Formerly owned by the collector and Art Nouveau jeweller Henri Vever (1854-1842), the illustrations ‘resurfaced’ in Paris last year. Last publicly recorded at an auction in 1948 in the city they have presumably been in a private collection in France since.

The Great Wave by Hokusai. Photo courtesy The British Museum.

Rediscoveries like this are not only a joy and a privilege to view but they add to our knowledge of an artist, as well their life and times. These exquisite drawings come from a period in Hokusai’s career where it was thought he had created relatively little. By then in his seventies, within the previous two years he had suffered the death of his second wife and recovered from a minor stroke. A few months after these pieces were completed Hokusai pleaded destitution in a letter. This state of affairs was in part due to gambling debts incurred by his ‘ne’er-do-well’ grandson. The drawings significy a new period of creativity that led to the creation of his famous print series, Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji (c. 1831-1833).

Hokusai ‘Yi Di (Giteki) orders people to use rice juice to brew wine’. In this comic scene, men seem to be using the weight of a large rock to squeeze liquor from the rice. Photo courtesy The British Museum.

Museum experts and researchers from, different institutions are working to establish meaningful connections between the drawn features in the 103 works, and the wider social interconnections of people, places, time, events, ideas, and technology. You can do your own detective work and view the drawings in detail at The British Museum Collection online using zoom technology. The plan is also for the drawings to feature in a future (free) exhibition. I’m already looking forward to that!

Re-opening this week

Preparing the house and gardens at Waddesdon for opening.
(Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

Waddesdon Manor is relaying the carpets, re-hanging the pictures and dusting off the treasures. The fairytale country house will be opening the ground floor of its magnificent interiors to the public again, for the first time this year. The house was already being prepared for opening after the winter closure when Lockdown began. Expect a one-way flow to avoid pinch points and narrow doorways, which will actually allow closer encounters wlith objects in the collection. (From 16 September).

Waddesdon Manor, exterior elevation and interior dining room.

In my inbox

A cliff edge hanger

Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi. Photo courtesy NH Collection.

The tourism industry is hoping to extend the summer season to recoup the losses of Lockdown. If you feel you’d like to travel a little further afield before autumn sets in, the NJH Collection of hotels is offering a generous 25% reduction. The five-star Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi features a stunning location from the cliffs above the bustle of the coastline. The hotel has a rich history dating back to the 13th century and was once home to Capuchin monks. From the heated infinity pool you can relax and take in the picture postcard views of the coast below without venturing forth. If you should want to explore a little Amalfi is just five minutes walk. Check the web site for range of service available currently, full details of the offer and T&C.

Cocoa Island

The bar terrace. Photo courtesy COMO Cocoa Island.

Or how about a private retreat where guests can choose from two island excursions. The Experience Package includes daily yoga sessions to sunset fishing, and turtle snorkeling to a shark adventure. COMO Cocoa Island opened on this week and features 34 overwater villas allowing you to slip from your balcony into the turquoise lagoon (see featured image for an example of accommodation).

Dolphin watching. Photo courtesy COMO Cocoa Island.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy your week whatever you’re doing and wherever you are in the world. 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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