Friday, July 30, 2010

Mr Baldwin's scrapbook

"... The enormous doors of the house were open, and I stepped into something that I simply couldn't believe. Althorp indeed! Althorp was the house from Country Life that I pasted in my scrapbook many long years before, and the room I was standing in was an immense entrance hall in which there were five life-size paintings of horses by John Wootton.

"I said, 'I cannot believe it.' And as I uttered those words I was presented to the earl, who was absolutely beaming with pleasure and looking great in a marvelous tweed suit. I said, 'I must tell you that I saw this in Country Life in 1921 and put it in my scrapbook. It is one of my favorite places in the world, but I had forgotten the association of it with its name, Althorp. However, I remember the photographs so well that I can tell you about that chair which is sitting in front of that wall.' The earl seemed terribly pleased, but the overwhelming thing to me was the scale of the huge stallions.

"We were taken almost at once into a long, long library, which was a huge white room with huge fireplaces with beautiful windows opposite them and it seemed as though the room was composed of books on one side and glass on the other. The style of the room cannot even be imagined and the scale was colossal because the room was. Around each of the fireplaces were big groups of very comfortable furniture, and in front of them were a few young people. They were the earl's children by his first wife."

One of the real pleasures of having a library is that I can browse, dabble here and there, do a little research - if something so pleasurable can be called research. I wish I could say at this point that the satisfaction I'm expressing prevented me from buying more books, but it doesn't. 

I mentioned a while back that friends who were moving house had given me their extensive collection of magazines, some of which were back issues of Veranda, and whilst that has never been one of my favorites, it was always a good and comprehensive source of interior decoration south of the Mason-Dixon Line, at least before it had to broaden its scope. Now no longer a Southern magazine by any definition, since the Atlanta offices have been closed and the whole shebang –whatever that means after the job-losses that ensued – has moved into the New York offices of the publisher.

Part of Veranda's geographical reach-broadening was to include work done outside the South and, though this might have happened earlier than I think, to include articles about houses such as Althorp. Southern or national, it was a handsome magazine, one that looked well in the salons of Atlanta, be it nail, hair or grand drawing room. On leafing through the pile of back issues it became clear to me that Veranda really did have its own local flavor – a regional style that one sees only if one motors the country roads not yet subsumed in suburbia, walks the country towns rich with architecture as ramshackle as their history, and enters some of the older houses in this city. Veranda was local – if such a vast region that stretches from Texas to the Florida Panhandle can be called local – and had a style that was beloved by many. How it will fare as a national book remains to be seen.

However, I have digressed a mazy way from the hall and library of Althorp to the salons of the South and the country towns of middle Georgia. 

Photos of the family seat of the Earls Spencer, in Veranda reminded me that I'd read in Billy Baldwin's autobiography how he and Arthur Smith had been driven to lunch to Althorp by Hardy Amies. I reread the passage today and wondered if somewhere in my library I might find the photograph he mentions as having pasted in his scrapbook. I think I might have.

Ah, the pleasures of the library, indeed!

Quotation from Billy Baldwin: An Autobiography with Michael Gardine, Little, Brown and Company, 1985.

Black and white photographs (unattributed as far as I can ascertain) from English Country Houses, Mid Georgian, 1760 -1800, Christopher Hussey, Antique Collectors' Club, 1986. (An unnumbered edition of 500 copies principally for sale overseas.) First published by Country Life Ltd., 1955.

Other photographs by Fritz von der Schulenberg to accompany text by Charles Spencer for Veranda, March 2008.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Over the weekend I received a very interesting comment on Friday's post Tone Deaf from a correspondent who, though I had not posted pictures of the exterior, recognized the house. I deleted her name from the comment for her privacy's sake.

I had no idea when I wrote Friday's post that the house I featured was a replacement for a David Adler house - not one that had been torn down, I hasten to add, though that nearly happened - one he'd designed in the late 1930s for Mr and Mrs Louis B Kuppenheimer, Jr. As you will see from the comment, the Kuppenheimer house (see black and white photos) was saved from demolition and erected on their grounds by a family who lived across the street.

What I had passed over, dismissed perhaps, in the original magazine article - I had read it only with an eye to aesthetics - was what the author described as the homeowner's "passionate commitment to universal accessibility" and that "She is on national and local committees setting policy for the disabled, and she made it an absolute criterion that the house be accessible to everyone, regardless of their degree of physical mobility."

Here, I think, is not the place to discuss historic preservation despite what I said about the Kuppenheimer house nearly being demolished, for what really struck me on rereading the article was that phrase universal accessibility - a subject not frequently touched on in shelter magazines. Surprising, really, given what is politely called a "rapidly aging population" - and I wish it were possible to express, without inducing panic in anyone nearing forty, the speed with which aging happens - as well as the statistics on the numbers of Americans who are disabled.

What makes the room so thrilling is that – besides its beauty and refinement – it is accessible. Let's face it, this is not the picture one's mind conjures up when one hears "wheelchair accessible."

The principles of universal design are to be found here if you would like to know more about them.

Black and white photos from The Country Houses of David Adler, Stephen M. Salney, W.W. Norton and Company, 2001.

Color photo by Tony Soluri for Architectural Digest, August 1998.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tone deaf

I've just listened on YouTube to what for years I've thought of as the only piece of jazz I could ever tolerate - Dave Brubeck's Big Noise from Winnetka. But it seems at this point I have to concede that my level of tolerance has sunk even further - jazz, both traditional and modern, remains one of the most irritating noises I could ever try not to listen to - nails on a chalkboard, that sort of thing! Sadly, merely stating that I cannot abide the stuff typically raises many a hackle – or many a look of pity.

Let me say, before I raise more hackles, that noise to me is one of the biggest polluters of modern life and I am one of those people who cannot zone it out. The Celt, on the other hand, could sleep on the orchestra conductor's baton during the cannon fire and pealing of bells celebrating the retreat from Moscow.

None of which has anything to do with this photo except that it is of the living room of a Winnetka, Illinois house, decorated by Stanley Falconer - a house purporting to reflect "a late-eighteenth-century French country house."

One wonders why in 1990s Winetka, Illinois, or anywhere else on this continent for that matter, there was a need to reflect another century, style or place. The other day I commented in response to F P Victoria's post in part about discrimination or the lack thereof, and about what he hesitated to call knock-offs by saying that we all notice phrases such as "inspired by...." "in the manner of ..." and "an homage to ..." being used in shelter magazines and trade publications. I went on to say that anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of decorative arts cannot but be aware of the many familial resemblances in popular catalogues, mall furniture stores, to authenticated designs.

So it is with this house - the evocation of another time, place and lifestyle - enshrined in the language of display. Over the years there has been a predilection for evoking other lands, past times and in many cases long-dead designers as if giving credence to the decorator's or architect's own work. Look back through 1980s and 1990s Architectural Digest, for example, and you will see a constant conjuration of some golden back-when whether it be eighteenth-century French palace or province, the Paris of Napoleon III, the country houses of the English aristocracy, or 1930s Wyoming. However, such imitation-evocation is almost entirely restricted to interior design. I'm pretty certain the inhabitants of these homes did not totter about in Marie-Antoinette flounces, wear the likes of Prinny's knee-breeches, or creak around in chaps and spurs at cocktail parties - except, perhaps at a fête costumée. To do so would look anachronistic and ridiculous. Yet acres of rooms, staged at vast expense, milk those times and places, and nobody bats an eyelid.

Authenticity is almost as slippery a notion as chic – and to my mind all the more interesting in a society where designs of furniture cannot be copyrighted – a concept I shall enjoy exploring more in a later post. In the meantime, do please enjoy the undeniable beauty of Mr. Falconer's facsimile.

Photos by Tony Soluri to accompany text by Jeffrey Simpson about a house designed by Thomas H. Beeby, decorated by Stanley Falconer of Sybil Colefax and John Fowler and published by Architectural Digest August 1998.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


.. very much to my taste and the latest in an occasional series about libraries.

As I said on Friday, one thing leads to another, and this post leads me back to where I'd begun - with Billy Baldwin. In Billy Baldwin Decorates there are photos of Mr and Mrs William McCormick Blair, Jr's living room and dining room. Though the room shown below is not one of the illustrations in that book, photos of a refreshed but essentially unchanged Baldwin library were published nine years ago in House Beautiful - a room, nacreous, well-mannered, sunny in disposition and very much to my taste.

It's very hard to put one's finger on precisely what it is that makes this room so special for it is a true example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The more one attempts to analyze it the further it seems to recede, as does a dream that fades more quickly the harder one tries to remember it.

This is what the Germans and by extension psychologists call gestalt: perceiving something as a whole rather than through its separate aspects. One way to think about this is to imagine eliminating one element from the room - the painting for example. Obviously it is the biggest thing in the room so eliminating it altogether would leave an enormous gap, but even substituting it with a different painting would transform the mood. An example on a smaller scale - imagine the fauteuils replaced by a pair of club chairs and immediately there would a very different room - it would become prosaic. If the whole is greater than the sum of the parts then changing one aspect drastically alters the whole.

This then is the ineffable quality of chic - an indefinable, harmonious balance between many things that, somehow, works.

Photos by Eric Boman to accompany text written by Marie Brenner for House Beautiful, September 2001.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chic happens

A while before I posted about Billy Baldwin's blue salon at La Fiorentina, and before I went searching in my old copies of The World of Interiors for Roderick Cameron's last house in Ménerbes I found an article written by Cameron a couple of years before he died about a house he decorated for an American client, Mr X, and his wife.

I did not set out to write this week about Roderick Cameron but, as you know, one thing leads to another and here I am cogitating a particularly rich aesthetic - rich not in any sense of being overbearing or displeasing in its showiness, but one that at first glance seems a little underwhelming and sometimes, mystifyingly, is described as chic.

Chic is a word that gets bandied about a lot - in a modish way, you might say. Chic, is ... well, to be chic is to be classy, but not quite in the way, if you'll pardon the slang, those old Hollywood broads were classy. A platinum blonde, totin' a piece, marking some big lug on her way to the big house might have been a classy broad, but she certainly was not chic.

So, what is chic and, as an extension of that, what is taste? Chic is a word destined or even intended to make any tyro quake in his aesthetic boots. Chic really does just mean classy or if classy ain't classy enough then chose a synonym: elegant, exclusive or dashing. In that word exclusive lies the nub, as it were, of the usage of the word chic and in a déclassé use of the word classy. Describing something a being chic is a classy way of showing that classy is as classy does!

But classy, like the word classic in classical music, or classic in the sense of time-honored is derived not from the Classical World (Ancient Greece and Rome) but from the word class - as in upper-class.

If chic, then, means being elegant and sophisticated and if, as many taste-makers proclaim, it is beyond fashion, what are they really saying? What we must remember is that language is a signifier of status, of background, of intelligence, of wealth, of culture, and perhaps more than all those, the ability to create a persona of persuasion. And so it is with interior design: words are class signifiers and the language of the upper class of the profession, the so-called Deans of Design, the Mavens, the Connoisseurs - or to put in an un-chic way, the Fixers and the Tastemakers.

Turning to Mr Cameron again... "Owing to the scale of the house, the colors had to be on the quiet side; many of the walls were to remain white, or just broken with a suggestion of green or yellow. The materials also had to be small-patterned and light. Basically it was to be a house that the family came to in the spring or early summer, and I wanted it to reflect this mood. The small sitting room has a white linen sofa, a clear Perspex coffee table in front of it, and armless comfortable chairs - the material covering them a very simple green-and-yellow patterned chintz. There wasn't room for real armchairs. The drinks table came from David Hicks and is white sycamore with a sand-colored marble top. The stone floor we partly covered with raffia matting made by Les Tapis de Cogalin near St. Tropez. The only hints of real luxury in the room are a handsome painting on silk of a white dog by Castiglione, the Jesuit father working for Emperor Ch'ien-lung in Peking during the eighteenth century, a faded blue-washed gouache of a Chinese Buddha, and a touching print found at Malletts in London of a girl offering a magnolia bloom to a fawn. An endearing early-nineteenth-century wooden owl from Austria presides over the drinks table set with old, rectangular, cut-glass decanters, and a handsome famille-verte vase made into a lamp stands on a low draped table by the sofa. This small room sets the mood of the whole house - great simplicity mixed with a touch of exoticism.

"The dining room was so narrow we furnished its length with two round tables covered in an attractive pale-yellow-and-white chintz from Colefax and Fowler. The eight chairs surrounding them are of unpainted wood with rush seats. A series of Hodges's engravings of India hang on the wall and an intricately carved marble plaque of the Mughal period hands over the fireplace. It was found in Lucca, where two young dealers, one Italian and one Siamese, having started a remarkable shop specializing in Oriental art. It is named the Galleria Craag after Carl Craag, the Siamese partner, and it comes as a delicious surprise for anyone interested in the Orient. I had the plaque framed in molded plexiglass, and it has become one of my favorite objects. The house if full of things I would have bought for myself and I feel this is the only way to work for someone else if one is allowed the luxury of choosing.

"Mr X consulted Gilbert Occelli, a talented young French designer. Gardening in Provence is not easy; the soil in most places is poor and the climate rude, too cold in winter and too hot and dry in the summer. One has to be well-versed as to which plants will or will not thrive. The top of a fairly exposed plateau with no great depth of soil did nothing to help matters and imposed its own restrictions. Mr Occelli found 40 old olive trees and planted them at the approach to the house, starting his garden plan from there. Two raised platforms to one side of the house, one divided into four and planted with herbs and the other spread with gravel and arranged with pots, formed one element. To the right of the approach, Mr X had been obliged sink a huge reservoir for his water, which is pumped up from a 120-meter-deep well. This gave Mr Occelli about fifty centimeters of soil, a problem he solved by making a little formal parterre with box and gravel paths centered around two large terra-cotta pots planted with clipped box. Two variegated hollies marked the entrance. The result is decorative and puts one in mind of gardens one has seen in seventeenth-century Dutch paintings.

"The swimming pool, blasted out of solid rock, lies below this and is reached by a descent massed with lavender which is kept clipped into tight balls when not in bloom. The garden, like the house, has been very simply treated and is very much in keeping with its wild surroundings. It's a place of utter enchantment, redolent with tangy smells and alive with butterflies, scuttling lizards, and a buzzing of bees, the whole bathed in the clear beautiful Provençal light."

To my mind, few things better pin down the wil-o-the-wisp concept of chic than these elegant, spare rooms, and Rory Cameron's deceptively simple descriptions.

Photographs by Jacques Dirand to accompany text written by Roderick Cameron for House and Garden, December 1983.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Lady Kenmare died, according to Billy Baldwin, "at a very ripe old age, and Rory suddenly felt bored with all of France, including Paris. He just somehow wanted to get out. He also didn't know what kind of place he wanted to go to, and he made a quick and unfortunate decision to go to Ireland, only because there was a lovely house there that he wanted. It was one of the best examples in the world: never buy a house somewhere just because of the house - you must as well buy the place, the people, and everything about it. Rory took all his furniture with him to Ireland and his house there was a distinct failure. I never ever saw the house, and very few did because he got bored with it and eventually moved back to the south of France where he built himself a great edifice very near Van Day Truex's."

In 1984, Roderick Cameron wrote text to accompany photos of his house in Provence - a gentle, appreciative account of a house he clearly loved. In fact, he wrote an essay about aesthetics, refinement and restraint that is as interesting to read more than twenty-five years later as it was so long ago.

".... I decided to move inland - to Provence. A proud country saturated in its Roman past, part French and part Mediterranean, its inhabitants are a people of very mixed blood: Phoenician, Greek and even a smattering of Saracen - a combination I felt would surely moderate the national traits and make me feel less of a foreigner.

"Finding a ruin eased the situation still further - a heap of rubble gives one infinite scope. Alexandre Favre - a clever, young, local architect - and I worked on the plans which in the end turned out to be an interpretation of the local building styles: drystone walls, old Roman tiles, but not those small window-openings so popular in Provence. Large openings are frowned upon where the whole aim has always been to avoid the sun but, personally, I must have light, with the result that the whole ground floor is plated in glass; great windows which slide into the thicknesses of the walls, the sun kept at bay by handsome, projecting, roofed-over piers. Only upstairs is the sun allowed in, but still it is controlled by sliding shutters.

"With the clarity of light down here one is apt to play down colours. The drawing room is the silver-green of the back of an olive leaf and the stairwell which curves like the volutes of a shell - indeed what inspired its formation - is painted the luminous beige found on the inside of a nautilus. Faded mustard-yellow, moss-green and the soft blues of Ming porcelain seem to be the dominant colours. The white stone floors throughout the house are spread with raffia-matting from Cogolin, the only place I know that makes this particular floor-covering."

I remember on first reading the color palette that Cameron talks about - faded yellow, silvery olive, moss, blue, white stone, blanched grass, how excited I became at the idea of seeing those colors - which of course I did not too long thereafter, in Provence.

Surely anyone who has been to Provence cannot forget the bright light of lavender, the many shades of ochre-rich earth, the umber and sienna crags, an exhilarating amalgam under the most arrant of blue skies. Also, who could not be touched by the soft, shadowily absorbed interiors glimpsed from a passing yellow-dust-laden car, or not be thankful for the rosy wine -one of the most thirst-slaking emollients known to man?

That apart – if my reading of Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth Century Taste is correct – then one omission from Cameron's essay on Les Quatre Sources is the name of Van Day Truex.

"Following Truex's design, Cameron broke ground for Les Quatre Sources in the valley between the villages of Ménerbes and Les Baumettes. Almost as soon as it was completed, Les Quatre Sources became a much-photographed and much-publicized house. Its location on a hillside facing Ménerbes, the oversized scale of its rooms (an unusual feature in Provençal architecture), and its remarkable staircase were all Truex's designs. While Truex himself thought his [own] house in Ménerbes was his finest work, since the discovery of his original plans for Cameron's house, in 1987, most designers have considered Les Quatre Sources his masterpiece."

Photographs by John Vere Brown for an essay written by Roderick Cameron published in The World of Interiors, April 1984.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A man of most remarkable taste

One of the pleasures of being given lots of old magazines, as I was last week by friends who are moving house and needed to downsize a magazine collection, is renewing acquaintance with rooms long buried in files which for the life of me I cannot find. Gone, no doubt, the way of the family bible ...

So it was with great delight I found Billy Baldwin's salon for Mr and Mrs Harding Lawrence at La Fiorentina - which of us doesn't know it, especially to those of us who own Billy Baldwin Decorates? Of course, it was the blue that caught my eye way back in 1999 when the room was already nearly thirty years old, and it has become a treasure image lodged at the back of my mind since. Once I had a clipping and now I have the whole article again.

Since I began blogging it has occurred to me a number of times that one's collection of magazines should never be disposed of – squirreled away if necessary in a dry basement or stored on bookshelves, but never thrown away. Of course, that presupposes that there is room for more bookshelves, and in my case the increasing number of shelves has not kept pace with the books or magazines coming into this house. My collection of The World of Interiors, begun in the early 1980s, takes a remarkable 112 linear feet to shelve. I ask you, who begins a collection of magazines? Like husbands, they just mount up. The number of other design publications arriving in the mailbox has dwindled without really causing torment, and will dwindle further if Elle Decor doesn't try, even a little, to be interesting.

We are both readers and that means that we have a never-decreasing library that ranges from the obvious interior design and architecture, thru Western art both fine and decorative, to cookery books, books on genetics, history, novels both trashy and inner-landscape, biographies, to curiosities such as Our King and Queen and the Royal Princesses, and Hill's Manual on Social and Business Forms: A Guide to Correct Writing, Showing how to express Written Thought Plainly, Rapidly, Elegantly and Correctly.

And it was such a correctly, if not terrifically plainly written, biography Billy Baldwin: An Autobiography, picked over again during the deepest pout of my weeks-long bloggers block last weekend, that led me to remember the name of someone I'd wanted to write about for a while - the man described by Baldwin as "a man of most remarkable taste" - Roderick Cameron. Son of Lady Kenmare and friend of Van Day Truex who apparently also "was absolutely smothered with taste."

A subject quite absorbing, Taste, and I shall return to it in a subsequent post.

Roderick Cameron began as the subject of this post but has almost been demoted to a footnote, so I'll try to remedy that by quoting Billy Baldwin one more time and by saying I intend to write more about Cameron later this week.

"His mother, Lady Kenmare, was an Australian beauty and twice a widow when I first met him. Lady Kenmare and Rory with a combination of American and Australian money had bought a property on the Riviera which was a wreck due to damages done to it during the war. This remarkable building was known as "La Fiorentina," and it certainly did have, for one thing, the most beautiful views and sights on all the Riviera. It was clinging on to the tip of Cap Ferrat, and surrounded by the perfectly fantastic gardens, terrace upon terrace, most of which had remained in pretty good condition in spite of the war.

"The restoration began and it was lucky for everybody because Rory was a young man of enormous taste, great enthusiasm, and plenty of money. Together with his mother, they bought a great deal of the furniture for the house and turned it into the most beautiful house on the entire Reviera. The restoration was by no means an exact copy of what it had been before the war and before the bombing; instead, Rory brought the whole thing into the present time with a remarkable clarity, a great feeling for textured materials of the day, a lovely absence of color in that most of it was rather bony or very pale, and the introduction of contemporary French furniture, most notably tables by Jean-Michel Frank, who was the last great cabinetmaker in Paris."

Photos by Durston Saylor for an article written by Aileen Mehle for Architectural Digest, January 1999.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Onion rings, greyhounds and Ming the Merciless

A few days ago I had a very kind letter from Joan of for the love of a house - a response to Tuesday's post and whilst replying to her I began to think about my first visit to this country. You might think, and you'd be right, amongst the guiding forces behind my blog is nostalgia and love of home - the blog is not titled The Blue Remembered Hills for nothing.

It was not until the Bicentennial that I visited this country and rather than fly from Montreal where I was vacationing, I took a Greyhound bus to New York. It's hard to imagine now that the Greyhound bus had romance for a European but it did. Before I continue with that journey, equally grueling and exciting as it was, let me tell you how my love of this country began early in my life.

A neighbor, once the bride of a G.I (oversexed, overpaid and over here as American soldiers were referred to) serving in Britain, came back with her daughters to live in our home town and the two families became close, relatively speaking - god parents, best-men, that sort of thing. It was the friendship with them and their tales of life in Leroy, New York and Flint, Michigan that awakened in me a desire to see America, to experience it and to live in it. Was I totally convinced by what they were saying? Absolutely, but I couldn't let them see it. Something in what what I listened to made me curious, perhaps more than a little envious, and even more dissatisfied with a hidden inner life in a small town. A seed had been planted and it wasn't in the snows of Michigan or New York.

Much of what I remember from my early youth is in black and white - Eisenhower playing golf, the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Sputnik, - images from the Saturday matinee Movietone Newsreels through which I could hardly contain myself waiting for Flash Gordon and Dale Arden to fight the wicked Emperor Ming once again, or Hopalong Cassidy was going to set the West to rights, or, if it was a very bad day, Roy Rogers and that bloody horse .... as a child I couldn't stand Roy Rogers.

The day I first saw Amos Burke draw up in his Rolls Royce to a Los Angeles cocktail lounge - a building of absolute banality surrounded by acres of parking, alongside a humdrum strip of city street, and enter a darkly glamorous interior where the criminal, the friendless, or both were drinking in the middle of the day - I was hooked. Forget Flint, to hell with Leroy, New York even - gimme that cocktail lounge! There was, of course, a certain suspension of belief - a millionaire chief of detectives driving around in a Rolls Royce - but that was not the point. The point was that the cocktail lounge as portrayed there was so exotic I just had to find one. Not an easy task, it transpired. It took me a while and when I did find one it was in New Jersey, but that did not diminish its glamor one jot. In fact, it only heightened it for didn't we all know that the Mob owned all the cocktail lounges in New Jersey and and probably the guy on the next barstool, or those two sitting in the shadows ..... ! This was America. This was deliciousness personified.

Yet it was not in a cocktail lounge that I had my first taste of America, in a culinary sense, but rather at a Greyhound bus stop in Saratoga Springs. I ordered onion rings and coffee. That day was my introduction to how bad coffee can be - but more importantly to how ambrosial slices of onion dipped in batter and oozing grease can be, and remain so to this day. Didn't America drink coffee when it wasn't drinking cocktails? Wasn't Maxwell House, as it was advertised in Britain, America's favorite coffee? Wasn't a burger and fries the quintessential American dish? A burger and fries seemed so, well, everyday, but onion rings - now that was special, that was American. This is the memory that came back when reading Joan's letter today. What I remember of Saratoga Springs beyond the bus stop is little except for an impression of white painted wood, flowers and greenery but those onion rings gleam in my memory.

That summer I stayed with a friend who lived in what he said had been a gatehouse on the Revson estate - a tiny house without air conditioning, and where I was served a cocktail containing bouillon which I found undrinkable but poured it down, nonetheless. That summer that same friend introduced me to the Village where on those summer nights it seemed like it had actually rained men, to Broadway and before the theatre to the Algonquin lobby - a space now sadly choking under cheap decorative tat, to Eudora Welty and the her recording of Why I Live at the P.O., to Florence Foster Jenkins; to lofts, to the Clam Broth House in Hoboken, New Jersey, to classical music public radio, and to the idea that finally the battle fought that brave night outside the Stonewall Inn only seven years before had brought relative freedom to a much despised minority - a freedom again under attack by politicos in Texas and Montana.

Vitae summa brevis, indeed.

Whilst I'm still waxing nostalgic let me say that the best breakfast I've eaten, probably anywhere and certainly over thirty years ago, was lobster with drawn butter, in a beachside cafe in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. No lobster or breakfast has since come close.