Monday 25 August 2014

Edward, Teddy and Cynthia

We own two teddy bears, imaginatively named, or so we think, Edward and Teddy. Presented to one of us as Christmas gifts several decades ago, they have lived with us throughout our married life.

Edward is the stay at home type. Introspective and somewhat uncommunicative, he presides over the dining room here in Budapest with an authoritative air. Although closely witnessing the comings and goings [as well as eavesdropping on the delicious gossip] of our friends and guests at the dining table, Edward can always be relied upon to be the soul of tact and discretion.

a rather contemplative Edward sits patiently in the Budapest dining room

Teddy, on the other hand, is a gregarious bear, accompanying us to the Opera, to restaurants, and to concerts with enormous enthusiasm. 'Tosca' is a favourite, so much drama, and on one particularly historic occasion he sat through all nine Beethoven symphonies without so much as a growl. Members of the audience often will wave to him in the Dress Circle from the Orchestra Stalls, whilst concert goers will frequently take his photograph. Teddy has yet, however, to give an autograph but it can only be a matter of time before his fame spreads sufficiently for a paw print to be requested.

Teddy enjoys a performance of the St. Matthew Passion in the State Opera House, Budapest

In one of our favourite restaurants, Klassz, on Budapest's grand boulevard, Andrássy ut, a place is always set for Teddy when we arrive, a spoon considerately replacing the tricky to manoeuvre knife and fork. And as we survey the room of diners who seem to be so much more involved with texting, tweeting or emailing on mobile telephones rather than, as once one might have expected, engaging in conversation with their companions so we think, perhaps misguidedly, that there is so much more fun to be had with Teddy.

Teddy eagerly awaits the arrival of dinner in Budapest's Klassz restaurant

All of this serves to remind us of 'Cynthia'. Full of bosom, small of waist, a perfectly formed 100 pound mannequin who was not only glamorous but also as silent, so to speak, as the grave.

'Cynthia' seen at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York with Lester Gaba

enjoying a quiet restaurant dinner, 'Cynthia' with Lester Gaba in the 1930s

In 1930s New York, Lester Gaba worked in the retail display business. In the absence of suitable drinking and dining companions he created the exceedingly lifelike 'Cynthia' in honour of the New York socialite Cynthia Wells. 'Cynthia' was seen everywhere on the arm of the fashionable Gaba, but never heard. Gaba insisted that laryngitis was the reason why 'Cynthia' remained silent.

'Cynthia' had a credit card from Saks of Fifth Avenue, a box seat subscription from The Met, her own newspaper column and radio show [Gaba said what 'Cynthia' thought] and she even made it to the cover of 'Life' magazine. It was a sad day indeed that she slipped from a chair in a beauty salon and shattered into pieces. Thankfully her mould ensured that she could, and did, 'live'again.

a by then famous 'Cynthia' pictured on the front cover of 'Life' magazine on July 12th. 1937

With the demise in real terms of 'Life' magazine in March 2000, our hopes for worldwide coverage for Teddy have, inevitably, suffered a setback. Possibly someone from Condé Nast, perhaps the Editor of 'Tatler', may be reading this?

N.B. We have been unable to source the photographer(s) of the images posted here of 'Cynthia'.  We should be pleased to include acknowledgements.

Friday 1 August 2014

Rollin', Rollin', Rolin Den Heijer

The city of Dordrecht lies just 18km from Rotterdam but, in many other respects, it is several lifetimes away. Life in this picturesque town is altogether more languid. Canals flow at a gentler pace, windmills whirr wistfully, people are unhurried, easy-going and keen to pass the time of day [in perfect English, of course] with visitors who, like us, have drifted in on the afternoon tide.

decorative tiles to be found in the Simon Van Gijn Museum, Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland. Rich in culture, decorated with delightful architecture and steeped in history with a mediaeval heart, this is a charming and beguiling town. Handsome houses of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries line kilometres of canals, shady squares provide attractive meeting places whilst a wealth of museums, churches and some 950 monuments paint a picture of Dordrecht's past which is both colourful and significant.

a fine example of the splendid architecture which is to be seen throughout Dordrecht

And, joy of joys, we arrived in town on the very day that the preparations for 'Dordt in Steam', Europe's biggest steam event, were in full swing. Historical steam boats filled the canals, brushed and polished to perfection by their proud owners, whilst the quay sides boasted all the trappings of a bygone age.

the canals of Dordrecht give berth to the shipping of a previous age and time 

But, for all its illustrious past, Dordrecht also has its eyes focussed firmly on the future. Its noble industrial heritage has been revitalised to meet the demands of twenty-first century living.

view of the interior of The Grand Café Khotinsky, 1905, Dordrecht

The Grand Café Khotinsky, built in 1905 as a power plant, is now home to concerts, both classical and pop, a theatre, a cinema, dance studios, workshops, a café, bistro and bar. And the Villa Augustus, completed in 1882 as a water tower, today serves as a boutique hotel, a restaurant and function rooms surrounded by formal gardens, an orchard and an immaculate kitchen garden which supplies the Villa's ultra chic market café.

exterior of the Villa Augustus, in former times a water tower
a part of the formal gardens which surround the Villa Augustus

There can surely be no more sublime surroundings than these, we thought, for taking Afternoon Tea on a hot summer's day. The Lemon Pie was deliciously lemony, the tea reviving and refreshing and the waiter, Rolin, was efficient, amusing, and handsome. Perfection indeed.

Jane and Lance Hattatt at the Villa Augustus, Dordrecht this summer

"Do come for dinner in Budapest," we invited.
"I shall," he replied.

And so he did!

Rolin Den Heijer joins the sentries on duty in The Castle District, Budapest