THE BLOG
19/11/2013 09:23 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Life in the Arts Lane - Week 50 - Running to Paris

I began the week with jewellery and the doctor and finished in Paris. A year ago I was called by my local surgery to have a health review. I did not go; I did not want to go. So, the doctor rang me and said that if I did not make an appointment and attend I would be struck off their list of patients. I then proceeded to give the poor person calling a complete earful about the nanny state, interference and the waste of taxpayers' money. I completely lost it, and was roundly rebuked for my trouble both at home and at the other end of the line. Now a year later I was sitting in the office of the very woman I had given such an earful to on the phone. We had never met, and until now she had just been the bodiless recipient of my ire and frustration. As we sat diagonally opposite each other it dawned on both of us exactly who I was. My embarrassment grew and grew. I passed an awkward 10 minutes grovelingly apologising and then left reflecting that I had been to more of a confessional than the doctor.

From there I rushed to the West End to meet with a jeweller who wants to exhibit at Masterpiece London 2014. It is remarkable how successful the show has been for this sector of the market. It has been robust from the start and though naturally a couple of dealers have left we are annually inundated with applications from all over the world. This one did require a personal visit and whilst sitting down looking at a lifetime's achievement and a dazzling array of imaginative and delectable offerings I felt sad that we could not accommodate everyone. But, the fair is about harmony and balance and presenting the best of as many disciplines as we can. Therefore we have a cap and we cannot keep adding to the roster as the show would turn into a jewellery show and not the international comprehensive compendium of scholarship and delight we want it to be.

Off to Pimlico - one of the biggest characters and personalities in Pimlico is the mercurial Will Fisher. He has turned his business Jamb into a thriving concern in English furniture and fireplaces. We have only recently started doing a bit of business together but he has been around for ever. He has an uncanny ability to know what people want and this he achieves by being incredible effusive and charming. He has a wild Tintin-esque swirl of hair and charges around getting things and being everywhere. He has turned his shops on the road into a small country house. I dropped a couple of unusual 17th century ivory hearth brushes I had found and was bewitched by the mise en scène he has created. It is the antique dealing equivalent of supermarkets baking bread - a marvellous ploy. The aura of fresh and new is engendered there, and here in his shop the feeling is that everything comes untouched and honestly to market. It is a very successful formula. Pimlico is full of such individuals. The street has retained energy and a buzz. Buying here is fun.

The first contracts have gone out for Masterpiece and I raced off to Paris to help finalise some of our Parisian dealers' plans. It is a truth that until you sit in front of people they find it hard to concentrate. So, I speed around, bobbing from the carré to the rive gauche encouraging and nuancing each appointment into agreement. I pass by a shop in the rue de Beaune called Gueneau. It is closing down. I feel sad for another trading loss. I hope the old man has not died but I just don't know. He was one of the institutions. He has been there for at least a generation and was never in his shop before 2.30 and often not open at all - it was usually the best policy to pop in to the cafe on the corner where he might have been sipping on an aperitif. Tall, gangly and slightly stooped by age he always had something new on show in the window. He bought across the board and you were as likely to see a piece of Islamic armour as you were to see a Louis XIV tortoiseshell casket. He once had a monumental lathe turned ivory model locomotive in his window. Every dealer in Paris passed by his small shop regularly because there was sure to be some excitement there to feast the eyes on. His pricing too was unpredictable and you needed to always ask because you never knew when an object would be reasonably or astonishingly priced. It is a sad passing and like with a friend passing, I remember the good times we have had together, I recall the wonderful things I have bought from him. Sadly not enough but happy memories none the less.

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Paris is endlessly full of surprises and yet I always follow the same path, trudging up and down the same few streets. I find that I rarely stray into the unknown. With a nearly free day following the frantic shuffling I decide to head off into the unknown. I had been to the Marais many times but I thought to wander over there and take pot luck on somewhere to eat. After a longish walk I found myself in this delightful quarter of Paris. We are so used to the grammar of the Haussmann boulevards that we sometimes overlook this area where the 15th and 16th centuries still hold sway. Lunch followed in a delightful small restaurant called Chez Robert and Louise. The smoky open fire ovens and low key atmosphere put me in mind of the period of the local buildings as did the presence of dogs, in particular a charming young black coated puppy that gallivanted around charming and pestering everyone. All combined, it gave the whole a brilliantly period tone. They served robust food too and I feasted on a perfect plate of fried wild mushrooms, thick, coarse, very salty bacon and a mound of scrambled duck eggs, sprinkled with chives, accompanied by soft, yeasty, grain-filled sourdough bread. I had never had duck eggs before and they were an intense combination of strongly scented egg, smooth and creamy, with the most delicate suggestion of a bite. This called for something strong to accompany it and I found a Primitivo from Salento that seemed to fit the bill with its dark colour, ripe berry fruit and spicy finish. I felt as if I had passed back in time to a more wild and robust era. Paris had become the countryside with open fields, Jacob sheep and grazing cattle. I could hear, in my mind, men shooting in the distance and see mist rolling across woodland and fields. As I paid up and headed off to the Gare du Nord I thanked Paris for offering up another treat and time travel too.

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