Treasures and pleasures

It was a gorgeous treat yesterday to zip up to the Royal Academy with two great friends. It felt like the first time for ages I had done something without some sort of work angle, purely for my own pleasure, and it was fab! Of course, I don’t pretend in the slightest to be toiling away in Dulwich like a pit pony – I live a life of total ease, thank God, as I am completely unsuited for anything else – but things have still been quite intense lately and a breather was lovely.

Before meeting at the exhibition, there were a few minutes to spare and I was drawn inexorably to Fortnum & Mason which, along with Liberty, is my spiritual home. I would ask my girls to scatter my ashes evenly between the two shops when I am gone, but I’m sure they’d be arrested for contravening a thousand and one elf ‘n’safety regulations.

The windows of Fortnums always remind me of these verses from Keats’s amazingly sexy poem, The Eve of St Agnes:

candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;         
  With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
  And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
  Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d
  From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedar’d Lebanon.         
  These delicates he heap’d with glowing hand
  On golden dishes and in baskets bright
  Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand
  In the retired quiet of the night


Mmmmm, doesn’t that all sound yummy? Well, yesterday, as well as jellies soother than the creamy curd, the windows of Fortnums were playing host to really beautiful three-dimensional models of some lovely Christmassy pictures – a Caneletto, a still life by Pieter Claezs and my own favourite, Camille Pissarro’s picture of Fox Hill, Upper Norwood, which is not a million miles from Dulwich.

I also love these Dutch winter scenes – very Christmas cardy, but do have a close look if you get one in the post this year, as the painters often cheekily drew people in the background who’d fallen over on the ice – and this was in the days before they had invented underwear!

The RA exhibition itself, Treasures from Budapest, was a wonderful scamper through six hundred years of art history, told with room after room of canvases from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Goya, Picasso and Monet. Beware, though, it’s quite exhausting – or maybe that’s just my mood at the moment. I certainly wished we’d taken a coffee break halfway through. What did I tell you? I’m no pit pony

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