Monday, November 14, 2011

In Black and White

Call us outspoken if you will. Many do. We should rather think of ourselves as incisive, clear thinking, focussed even. Still, one thing is for certain, if an opinion is required on any subject, any subject at all, then we are the people most likely to give it.

a still from 'My Fair Lady' with Audrey Hepburn [click to enlarge images] 

We cannot recall wearing pink or blue but suspect that this must have happened once upon a time. Nowadays, however, as we gaze into the black hole that is our wardrobe, brilliant white shirts and blouses are the only light sources shining out from a sea of inky black suits, skirts and trousers.

Our tights, socks and scarves add a flash of coloured fireworks otherwise we present a monochromatic sight when dressed for any occasion - a pair of photographic negatives reminiscent of the days of silent films or, more recently, Cecil Beaton's masterpiece, 'My Fair Lady'.

In our gardening days paths had to be straight, designs formal, planting schemes restrained [never was orange permitted as part of our palette] and a spade was, well, a spade. In our teaching years discipline was strict, Shakespeare unabridged, algebra revered for its elegant simplicity, failure was not an option and excellence was the goal.

'even our pets [Cat shown here] witnessed a shift in the colour spectrum'

And now, as we come to think of it, even our pets have witnessed a shift in the colour spectrum. An elegant ginger tom and a regal Cavalier King Charles Spaniel giving way in recent years to black and white felines, imaginatively named 'Cat' and 'Pussy', from the Cat Protection League.

All of this brings us to the decoration of our small apartment in Budapest which is let for holidays.

a selection of our design drawings for gardens of Hungarian clients 

A flight of pen and ink scale drawings of some of our designs for Hungarian gardens line the staircase wall, snowy white bed linen, sooty-black lamp bases, and chalky floorboards accessorise the sleeping gallery. A jet black bookcase, illuminated only by a rainbow of paperback spines, stands sentinel in the sitting room adorned with nothing other than a few framed photographs, black and white, of course, and a sign, 'Garden Open Today', from former Herefordshire days.

But should this all prove a little too sombre for our holiday visitors, then the introduction of a little colour in the form of a pair of 'cocktail' chairs in scarlet and the complete works of Shakespeare on board add, what we hope, is a touch of glamour.

a pair of red covered 'cocktail' chairs in our Budapest holiday apartment

the complete works of Shakespeare [oil on board] by John Hensher

Now, who dares call us dull?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thick as Thieves


We never seriously considered a life of crime. By 'crime' we are not, of course, referring to anything akin to Jack the Ripper nor, indeed, to the Great Train Robbery of 1963, nor to any of the spectacular heists which have become legends in their own right and are documented in the annals of world history. Such things are unacceptable and would, in any event, be quite outside of our league.

No, much more, had we decided on this as an appropriate way of earning a living, it would have been a little petty pilfering here and there, the odd spot of light burglary, fencing fakes, printing banknotes or, to use what we understand to be the correct terminology of the trade, dealing in 'knock offs'.  We do not have what it takes to be a latter day Bonnie and Clyde.

the site of  the Great Train Robbery from a Royal Mail train in 1963

As it is, a strong sense of morality, stemming most likely from strict upbringings where the importance of distinguishing right from wrong was instilled at an early age, and a failure on the part of our schools' careers' guidance teachers to offer it as a possible alternative to university, coupled with the fact that neither set of godparents headed up the local Mafia, meant that such an occupation was never, so to speak, on the cards.

And so, apart from the occasional fine for speeding - subconscious practice for being in the getaway car? - and a parking ticket here or there we have, to date, escaped the clutches of the law and anything approaching a criminal record.

the nearest we have come to any serious offence, and then not three at a time 

But not so in our dreams. Or, more accurately, in waking moments when sleep evades or the tedious bus or train journey stretches ahead, moments when time appears to stand still. Then we play the game of robbing our friends' houses. It is quite simple. Enter, in imagination, the house of any friend or acquaintance, and the rules permit the stealing of one, possibly two, objects taken from furniture, paintings, porcelain or anything desirable which happens to come to mind.

At times to choose becomes almost impossible as in the case of a London drawing room known to us intimately and where nothing, short of the paint on the walls, is newer than the finest, and earliest, eighteenth century. Rich pickings indeed! Or again, a modest country cottage whose walls carry the most desirable of works by Ben Nicholson and Graham Sutherland. In another instance we quarrel over an entire library of modern fiction. Can we purloin it all?

one of our all time favourite writers, Molly Keane

But, be assured, unlike the slightly mad, misdirected May Swift to be found on the pages of Molly Keane's splendid novel 'Time After Time', who pockets a paperweight, among other objets trouvés, your silver is quite safe with us. When may we visit?