The 'galleon splintering gales' that the War poet Siegfried Sassoon penned about Manorbier in a 'A medieval castle' came with a vengeance, when Dame Emily mounted the second vintage by the sea fair , a bitch of a gale came. The stalls flew away, kitchenalia and Tupperware became airborne and the marquee blew down. With adamantine will Emily regrouped and relocated the fair to the crypt and chapel while 700 people streamed in. The next event is to be arias by the sea, an opera promenade and divas on the parapets that promises to be equally dramatic.
Meanwhile I was on the other side of the island, in Norfolk at Houghton to see the treasures from St Petersburg. There has been a great hyperbole around a group of dark, over restored Mannerist and Baroque paintings, that have been graciously lent by the Hermitage to be hung as they were 200 years ago in the colossal Palladian mansion belonging to David Rocksavage, Marquis of Cholmondely.
If I were Lord Rocksavage I would not lament the paintings returning to the Venice of the North in September; with the exceptions of Poussin's holy family, Velasquez's Pope Innocent, two Kneller portraits of John Locke and the bossomy Paris Bordone ladies, depicted as Flora and Venus, that is the front of the catalogue, a great lure for visitors. Flora and Venus both have a daring décolletage with their tits provocatively peeping out; I wish we could re introduce this fashion. Luckily I latched onto a curator, otherwise I would never have learnt the allegory of the red red rose, a powerful symbol of love. They are nonchalantly scattering rose petals; coyly looking out of the canvas at Adonis who has been fatally maimed by a boar. Venus grazed her voluptuous thigh on a white rose thorn when rushing over to mourn her lost lover and thus her blood tinged the white rose red. Behind her Mars looks jealously over her shoulder fingering the blade of his weapon while cupid hovers over above. This is a painting of 'discord' while its twin, 'harmony 'still firmly parked in Vienna, is of Venus and Mars under a mulberry tree that symbolizes conjugal bliss.
The collection would be just like an important old master sale were it not for being back in situ at Houghton, hung in the William Kent interiors against the backdrop of sculpture, tapestries, furniture, marble, the grisaille and Grinling Gibbons carvings. The collection was amassed by the first prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, with funds siphoned off, from his being the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the paymaster general. He was profligate in his expenditure and entertaining; carriages were on a regular rote, night and day, carrying Whig gentry back and forth from London and Houghton; in 1733, 522 DOZEN empty bottles of claret were returned to the wine merchant, and guests were illumined by 130 wax candles every night.
Hardly surprising Sir Robert, then the Earl of Orford left debts of 5o,oo, upon his dying in 1745, his youngest son the great aesthete Horace despaired but providentially compiled an exhaustive inventory of the collection; Aedes Walpoliania
Robert Walpole's only grandson George was mad and gambled the rest of the Walpole wealth away and the collection had to be sold to the voracious Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia by a Mr James Christie to pay off the debts in 1779, and a great collection left our shores, forever or it seemed.
In the grounds Richard Long's slates look from afar deceptively like a stretch of water, Anya Gallaccio's ingeniously trained and seeded wild meadow flowers in the shape of Sybil's Cholmondely's flamboyant signature, is plant sculpture while James Turrels' sky fall in a wooden pavilion built on stilts in the wild garden. The sublime chamber with its the nuanced light streaming through a large aperture, , stretched over muslin open to the sky was a perfect place to meditate (and an antidote) to the opulence of the house.
Norfolk has become like the Hamptons, down every lane is yet another boutique hotel, a café a chocolate atelier, a gastro destination or an organic farm shop and they are all painted in 50 shades of Farrow and Ball grey. Though I am glad to see that my friends are cashing in on Norfolk's transformation into one great big Martha's Vine Yard; Desmond Macarthy, has turned his potting sheds into a Tapas bar while Simon Finch the antiquarian book dealer hires his arts and crafts house for weddings, and hosts lit fests and gigs. I went to stay with Simon at Voewood and had the dubious honour of sleeping in former Sex Pistol Glen Maxwell's sheets.
The illusion of a rich United Kingdom, verses broke Britain, of two parallel worlds in which private affluence and public squalor, wealth and poverty are becoming ever more polarized was just as strong when my husband, a restorer and I went to Masterpiece, the Art and Antiques Fair in Chelsea. Here you could buy anything from a Cycladic idol to an E type Jaguar. Russian oligarch's grannies, thinifers in teeny bop fashion botoxed up to the hilt gazing at all the gilt, tittered on six inch heeled studded Christian Louboutins, of such hideousness, rubbing their scrawny padded shoulders with hedge funders scoffing oysters posing as art lovers.
'So much porcelain, ormolu and Boulle
And old masters of the French school' in the words of Osbert Lancaster when he was sending up le gout Rothschild, sums up 'Masterpiece'.
And while we are on the subject of conspicuous consumption, friends recently lunched at Eden Rock in Cap Ferat; their two daughters had two pop fizzes, a hamburger each and they shared a timbale of crab and two glasses of Chablis and the bill came to 450 Euros.
Another fabulously rich enclave is Belgravia and a large chunk of it is owned by the Grosvenor House Group, with total assets of £12.2bn, in which their core portfolio comprises of 300 acres of Mayfair and Belgravia. Prime property locations and retail portfolios in London are climbing to Croesus proportions.
Soon Mayfair, Chelsea and Belgravia will be like Zurich. Nowhere beats Belgravia for that palpable feeling of large amounts of the folding stuff and delicious and delectable wares from discreet non designer independent shops like Chantal Cody's Chocolate shop Rococo, that for me gets the best prize ever for packaging; I want to paper my bathroom and hall way with her wrapping paper.
Girls clatter on the cobblestones along Kinnerton Street in diamante sandals and women float about in white muslin Egg frocks. Belgravia once the haunt of highwaymen, has not always been smart; when my grandparents moved to Eaton Square, my great grandmother commented that they had 'moved halfway to Slough."
I went on an aromatic tour of Belgravia, to sniff out Amouage, the Omani scent company drenched in Civet and Frankincense, Rachel Vosper, (the candle chandler,) Annick Goutal (who is now dead but her scents live on, like the classic L'Eau Hadrian) and Les Senteurs, in Elizabeth Street which is by the far the best showcase for artisan scents.
There is a quiet scent revolution rebelling against the tide of celebrity hyped fragrances; the 'muzak' of perfume, where as perfume partisans and pundits favour the finely attuned symphonies and accords of single note perfumes and natural scents devoid of synthetics.
Les Senteurs caters to every whim of the discerning scent enthusiast from: Linden Blossom, Bruno Acampora's, pure perfume oils from Naples, which are tenacious, and can be layered and blended according your own taste, Frederic Malle's Portrait of Lady and a rubber pad that emits ambient scent, or a whole gamut of oud notes blended with rose, amber and incense, (made from the resin extracted from the rare Aquilaria tree) by the Armenian Kilian , to a Jasmin and cigarette one and a minted candle from the Cloon Keen Atelier that conjures up mint juleps with fill a room with its soft pervasive aromas. Here at Le Senteurs is a veritable archive of scents, candles, traveling sets of scent and scented creams.
My only criticism was the handmade-in-Switzerland Noon petals petals by Andy, evocative title but an antiseptic smell, which gave me an allergic reaction and made me nauseous until I washed the stuff off; the Swiss should stick to banking, chocolates and cuckoo clocks.
Two decades ago Les Senteurs led the way to changing the tastes and smells of perfumery and this shop was one of my sources of inspiration when I wrote 'The Scent Trail, An Olfactory Odyssey, in search of the perfect perfume around the scent growing regions of the world.
Le Senteurs were boulevards ahead,of the over the counter E.D.T fragrances found in every department store and they re introduced half forgotten masterpieces and formulas from the great European perfume houses. Les Senteurs is a temple to perfumes in every sense and scents. I could spend hours writing panegyrics to the perfumes there and savouring them all. I urge anyone who loves perfume to seek them out and you will find the scents of your dreams; your very own -eau - de-me.
In Kinnerton street there is an atelier, making hand made scented candles, each with 3 pours of wax, where you can make your own scented candles with Rachel Vosper, who is a true artisan. You bring your own chosen vessels whether it be a set of Syrian or Moroccan mint tea glasses or a recycled Fortnums Stilton jar and choose from an extensive scent library of blends, such as Echincea, Sandal Wood and Cedar, Hellebores, Mexican orange blossom and a safe English choice, lavender and mint.
The front of shop is elegant and swathed in ambrosial clouds of scent and in the back are where the candles are made on site and looks like a Provencal kitchen, with wooden handles hanging from an old French spice and seed dresser and cauldrons of simmering essences, essential oils and beeswax by an open window.
Rachel who has been a candle chandler for twenty years; a master scented candle chandler (if there such a thing), as all Vosper candles, from the small votive ones to the casting and pouring 92 hour ones, (or the one she made for a noble lady of Kensal Rise that weighed 8 kilos, and took Rachel a week to with 8 pours of beewax,) are handmade and sourced from natural ingredients at every stage.
Even the beeswax comes from Manuka made by an apiarist, Steve Bembo who keeps bee hives on the roof of Fortnums and Mason of all places. The wicks are bounded with a thin zinc thread, which keeps the wicks bolt upright and from keeling over or sooting. There are no short cuts such as using soya wax. When burning a candle it is important that you keep the wick short when it is lit for a long time and long wicks for short light ups.
And watch out for the cheat scent candles, which simply have a taper in the middle of the scented candle infusion which burn right through leaving most of the scented part wasted, that is unless you have all Rachel's kit to re use with a proper stiff zinc strengthened wick. Candle-making courses cost £600 for 6 for the day, and bespoke candles for weddings, hotels and corporate people, ....well that is P.O.A. firstname.lastname@example.org