Sunday, 6 February 2011

Getting materials

The problem in Luxor is that the imported items are very very dated - see example of the 70s corner bath.  So we have tried to source everything we can from artisans who make everything locally.  The metal worker is a great example.  He has made a beautiful gate, in a traditional style and is now working on a 4 poster bed, as big as possible.

He is also making all the metal work for the balconies.

Labour here is very cheap.  I am embarrassed to say it is just £10 per day.  But we employ several people at any time.  It gives everyone something and hopefully if we continue with this work on other properties they can be kept in employment.  The worker carrying the sack of sand has 9 children, so I can imagine how hard life is for him and his wife, especially if there is no work.


Since coming to Luxor, along with my new husband we have bought the lease on a property in television street. We are refurbishing it and trying our best to use local labour, artisans and materials. We felt it was important to give as much work as possible to local people and use as few imported items as we could. Not only would this give the appartments and authentic Egyptian look but also give much needed money to local people.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Picasso at the National Gallery

This was one of my favourite paintings in the Picasso exhibition. It is supposed to be taken from the Delacroix painting titled 'The women of Algiers' Looks a lot more explicit in this version by Picasso.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The fall of the peacock throne

I dont often go to see plays but I really wanted to see this one having read about this particular piece of history.

Based in Iran it tells the story of the doomed window of democracy the country had back in 1953. More than this is also tells of how the West ie USA and UK are able to blackmail weaker countries into having to give up their rights. From what I have already read, I found this portrayal to be accurate and this is not surprising since the writer was assisted by the grandson of the former Prime minister, who was imprisoned by the end of the production.

I liked the main story but as they decided to run it alongside another tale about Alexander and Darius and the actors played up to 3 parts each it sometimes became a bit confusing. If it were not that I knew

The play was very well acted by all the partipants. I liked the fact that we were almost part of the stage. I like the location, the train running over the bridge added to the grittiness of the production. It was like a hidden secret with only a dozen of us in the audience witnessing this play. Very well done.

Posh Fulham supporters

No swearing, no singing, no raised voices and not that much support for a very good team. Fulham FC must have the poshest supporters in the country. Indeed it is based in a very affluent area of London and I understand that the socio economic class of the average supporter is in the top bracket. Great for kids and ladies as there is absolutely no fear of any unpleasantness at this venue. I personally would go there all the time if I lived nearby as there is some fantastic football going on here. I enjoyed the Blackburn match on Wednesday even though Fulham lost there was lots of action and some great saves by the Fulham goalkeeper.

My favourite player was this little one from Blackburn.

Everything must go

I was thrilled to have got involved by chance in this installation in Southwark. I only went in to ask directions to the Playhouse and was offered the chance to take as much plastic as I wanted. Some huge shapes in bright orange and red as well as perspex. Jeremy Hutchison, the artist filmed the proceedings including us trying to jam these huge bits into the car. I am excited about making art work out of the pieces and look forward to displaying them. Hope he keeps us up to date with future installations.

Islamic art at Satchi

The most effective and impressive installation at this exhibition of islamic art is the work by Algerian artist Kader Attier.

The work is delicate and very fragile and it is clever how he has moulded the aluminium foil around a body shape. Glimpsing inside the shapes there is just blackness which tells a whole story in itself.

The huge number of women depicted show how meaningless they are as individuals. Anonomous figures just shapes without personality or feelings. Faces hidden.

The whole of this exhibition is a fantastic statement about the oppression of women in Islamic countries. Much needed comments by brave artists.

Ambassade D'Ille

A very interesting though quite expensive meal can be enjoyed at the Ambassade D'ille in Old Brompton Road.

I was very impressed that the staff courteously called one hour before the booking to ensure we would still be coming. Maybe because there were so few bookings on the night. Only 10 people in total while we were there.

Nevertheless it was a wonderful experience of good service and a whole range of tasty morsels.

The picture above shows the amuse bouche comprising of quails eggs and tiny scallops. These followed root vegetable crisps in a huge pile of battered herbs.

We chose the tasting menu which in reality is good value. Totally delicious fois gras in delightfully modern soup bowls filled with lobster sauce was a highlight for me.

It is well worth going for the additional cheese board (one between 2 is enough for any couple as the choice is huge and generous) A speciality of Lyon is brought to the table along with a trolley of ripe cheeses from France. Three trolleys in all as an extra one comes with the Stilton mixed with Port. You may have as many cheeses as you care here and plenty of lovely bread and 2 sorts of butter, constantly replenished.

Service is attentive and unobtrusive. The staff are friendly and since Hamid speaks fluent french it was particularly pleasant to chat.

Chef toured the restaurant before the end of our meal, but you are able to watch the kitchen on large screens during the meal from some points in the dining rooms.

The rest rooms have some fantastic features with a bubbling geyser to wash your hands.

Our only criticism is the price of the wines - nothing much less than one hundred pounds but as a tip you can have several long drinks to start that are much more reasonable.

To finish we had a liquorice flavoured ice cream served on ice cold steel. See picture.

Dr Atomic is magnificent

I had tickets to see this minimalist opera at the colosseum in London.

It opens with a fantastic stage set incorperating the choir in boxes each one with a picture of a scientist working on the 1st atomic bomb.

Later in the production indians in full tribal dress replace them for a fabulous choral scene.

By the end tension is added to the threatening sounds and atmosphere by the props appearing to

There is so much to see and like in this opera. The orchestra and sound effects. The stage sets. The voices and of course the story. It is still possible to get tickets for the show and it is well worth anyones time and the relatively small price of the tickets.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Opera Snobs at the new production of La Boheme

I was lucky to have got tickets for the opening night of Jonathon Millers new production of Puccini's La Boheme at the Colosseum. Broadcast live for the first time on Sky TV from a packed house.

I thought it was a wonderful production particularly the first Act where Alfie Boe and Melody Moore sang those famous arias so movingly. The set was fantastic, almost like an old film of the 30's with an alley between the Parisian cafes setting the scene.

Why do critics have to be so horrible about such an immense achievement as this? It was almost as if the whole production was a disaster when I read some of the write ups the following day. Not to mention member of the audience who make such snobby comments such as 'Terribly under directed in my opinion'. Get a life some of you mealy mouthed people, stop criticising unless you personally can do a whole lot better.

I loved it and am sure most of the audience and viewers of Sky TV arts did too. Stand up for the ENO and the whole production team and singers who did a fantastic job on the best opera.

British museum Nebamin Collection

It was thrilling to see the newly opened Nebamin Tomb paintings in Room 61 at the British Museum. Recent conservation work on them shows remarkable detail and has brought out the true beauty of these amazing works of art.

Hard to believe the paintings are 3500 years old. Animals, dancers and fantastic details of Egyption life.

Do go if you can. It is free entry and very exciting to see.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Feng zhengjie

Chinese art

Took ages to get here but well worth a look

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Hassan the taxi

Hassan likes to wear his coat even in the hot weather as he has to get up at 4 when its freezing here in fez and he could catch cold

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Tai hee lee the most famous actress in korea

Here we are on the train from barceloma to madrid where we met this famous actor

Friday, 4 January 2008

Nick Squires playing with Jamie Scott on New Years eve

Nick played at the front of Somerset House with Jamie Scott the latest Jazz sensation for the New Years Eve party on BBC1. We all crowded into one room at Lisas House to watch and we all cheered him on. The rain poured and he got soaking wet but we were lovely and dry watching him on TV.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Monday, 24 December 2007

Who moved my Blackberry?

Who Moved My Blackberry?
by Martin Lukes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.89

Availability: In stock

merry krimble everyone!, 23 Dec 2007

A fantastical light hearted read to take your mind off the stresses of life and have a laugh at those less fortunate than yourself. I read this in less than a day and had a good giggle to myself throughout.

Martin - the narrator is the sort of colleague you would want to punch if you had to work with him. The book exposes those sad losers working in companies who feel they need to be trendy, use abbreviations and management speak to impress but it always backfires on him making them look ridiculous- though of course he doesn't realise it.

I loved the lifestyle/business coach 'Pandora' with absolutely no business experience at all charging just £300 per hour for her 'expertise' (her background as a dancer, lived in a bedsit, had cancer but overcame it by positive thinking and of course with the right attitude millions just came to her!! as it does).

I look forward to reading the FT on a Thursday I believe to catch up with Martin's exploits at A-B my only wish is that I read this a year or two ago to give me ammunition when dealing with similarly obnoxious people as Martin.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Famiglia Moro Antonio Mestre Venezia Italia Circa 1940

We have found this old photo of my mother's family. The man standing up is my Grandfather who was a black shirt at the time - unfortunate past maybe but he wasn't to know then. My mother is the girl in white at the front and Maria who lives in London is behind her. The baby is Diana who is still living in Venice.The boy is Giusseppe who died a few years ago. My Grandmother died not that long after the picture was taken just before the war.

sarah has just had a lovely new baby 'Milla'. She was 7lb 1oz. Congratulations to Sarah and Nick

Monday, 19 November 2007

Who wants to look like Paula Radcliffe? Janet Street Porter?

Janet Street Porter was complaining on Sunday that Young people today want to look like Posh Spice rather than Paula Radcliffe. I personally do not want to look like either but I would love to have the figure of Flavia on Stricly come dancing. For someone to be an icon they have to first be glamorous. When I go to the gym now I think about attaining Flavias shape and I think others should follow- she is a great inspiration for fitness.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Amazon the vine, vine voice

I was delighted last week to be invited to be a member of 'The Vine' . Amazon promise to send me free books in exchange for honest reviews on their website. They say that a 'select' group has been invited - well I am in the top 2000. I dont know if that has anything to do with it. -

My first review is for the Sarajevo Haggadah which I started with trepedation as it looked so long but I soon changed my mind and found it one of the most interesting books I have read this year. I now intend to find out more about this amazing book and would love to see the real thing. Here is my review -

I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to preview this book prior to publication. The Sarajevo Haggadah is a real book with a turbulant history and many of the details in this well researched novel are based on historical truths. As I was curious myself about the Hebrew Codex I checked out some details and found that the book has an estimated present value of around $700 million - no wonder this rare and beautiful book has a chequered past. Geraldine Brooks introduces the story via a book conserver from Australia who travels to Bosnia to carry out sensitive restoration. The storyline then hops through a possible past as recorded and as imagined by the writer. Some of the stories are quite harrowing and I was particularly moved by the young Jewish girl who becomes a member of the partisans to save herself from extermination- not a piece of history I had been familiar with. Due to the excellent background details the stories are always plausable and each one is a fascinating insight into the real lives of people of that particular time in history. A love story runs alongside the short stories. To be honest my only slight dislike in this book is the 'Miss smartypants know it all book restorer' who I feel would probably have to be acted by Juliette Binoche or some such person if and when the film comes out. Are there really people out there with 2 degrees and a Phd in book binding, no strings or ties, incredibly beautiful - of course! flitting from country to country on UN missions to conserve valuable books? No doubt all the bright young girls at school will now want to be book binders on the strength of this. Anyhow despite my little complaint a really worthwhile and informative read.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

How do people eat these things?

Field mice plague caused by worst floods in 50 years (CNN News)
The business management philosophy that one person's crisis is another's opportunity may perhaps never have been taken to such bizarre extremes.
A plague of 2 billion mice in central China was described just days ago as being so bad that it resembled a scene from a horror movie with roads and hillsides turned black with rodents.
But in a remarkable display of entrepreneurship, businessmen are catching, shipping and selling the eastern field mice, also known locally as rats, to the southern city of Guangzhou, where restaurants are reportedly offering rodent banquets to diners notorious for their unusual tastes.

This was an article written earlier this year about rats/mice being eaten in Guangzhou China.

To my delicate western taste I find many of the things on the menu in this area quite horrible to contemplate.

Breakfast even in a five star hotel means a search of what we might consider edible. There were huge vats of glutinous porridgy soup - with no mention of the ingredients. Other pans were filled with noodles in a soup and diced liver could be cooked and thrown on top by the well masked and gloved chefs on hand.

Some eggs looked normal whilst others were a dark greeny black - it was mentioned that they were preserved in horse urine.

The Chinese restaurant had a whole fridge filled with the delicacy 'river crab' which was in season at the time. I thought I would give it a whirl but found it very problematical. First it was wrapped in a plastic band and boiling hot from the steamer. There was thick river mud still on the large claws and the tools given to me were just scissors, a long pointed metal tool and some plastic gloves. I gave it my best shot but got very tired of sorting the whole thing out and gave up on the claws completely. High Cholestorol anyway I hear.

Another delicacy at the hotel were pigs ligaments - just the sound of them put me off and I dont think I could eat them without thinking of what they were.

We had lunch one day in a supermarket in Hong Kong and did not have much luck there. Again the menu had offputting items - most notable being 'steamed fish heads'. Our orders were not that pleasant and not really like the sort of food we are used to in Chinese restaurants in the UK.

Nevertheless there is some great food available. I just wish they would not mix the others on the menu

The shop window

Blow fish for dinner and we lived to tell the tale

Our supplier Eddie took us to a Japanese restaurant where we were served the delicacy Blow fish sashumi or 'Fugu". The blow fish is most often seen in aquariums rather than restaurants in UK and is a very expensive item. A Japanese chef needs years of training to prepare the fish which is highly poisonous in the liver.
This chef cut it up in to Sashimi and we ate it raw. Blow fish contains Tetrodotoxin which is around 1200 times more lethal than cyanide, one blow fish can kill 30 people. In Japan around 100 people per year die of poisoning by eating blow fish, mainly because they try to prepare it themselves.
When the fish is irritated it blows itself up and usually it dies afterward as seen on the left.

It is very delicious but I dont hold out too much hope that I will have the chance to ever eat it again. When a customer enters the restuarant all the staff shout welcome in Japanese which is quite surprising the first couple of times. We though we were famous when we walked in.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Iran from the aircraft

This amazing photo was taken from the aircraft. We flew north from Dubai up through Iran where there are some fantastic rock formations. Looking closely at the picture it is possible to see towns and agriculture.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Asian games 2007 macau

We were sorry that we just missed seeing any of the asian games in Macau as we were there on the very last day.

The ladies team from japan won gold for 5 aside football and they were celebrating in the hotel
I was glad to have seen Macau but it would not be on my list of places to visit again. It is really geared up for Chinese gamblers from the mainland and not much else.
We had a great time there nevertheless.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Dongguan to Macau

I took these photos on the way this morning. I have just got the blog facility back to will be able to add a few things we have been doing. The lady here is selling grapefruit and eating the profits - the grapefruit are humungous and turn up for breakfast. Havent tried them myself though.

These guys work a the factory we have been visiting - Orbit international and as you can see are very conciencious in all they do. China is extremelly fashionable and in the towns everyone wears the latest fashions and there really is a great choice - not as cheap as primark but very stylish things are available.

Macau the gambling capital of the far east

Macau Via the Chinese border
We were driven through 100s of miles of banana plantations and goose farms that form the livelihood of the indigenous Chinese who have not had the luck to have their land bought for development in the booming area of Guandong and we were relieved to have reached the China/Macau border. Bleary eyed we joined hundreds or were they thousands? of Chinese rushing into Macau. Some wheeling washing machines and others carrying massive bales of , I presume, clothing made in China. Many though were just strolling through with hand baggage. Organised and well staffed though they were at passport control we were puzzled by the queues formed by this massive migration. Once through and worried we would not find a room for the night we headed for the nearest travel agents and booked asap despite limited English on their part. It was later that night that we found the real reason behind the hordes crossing the border, no it was not a mass evacuation but weekend gamblers heading for the rapidly modernising sin city of ‘Macau‘. Bolstered by the big boys from Las Vegas injecting zillions into the province it is now close to being the biggest gambling den and town of vice in the world. It’s new found fortunes being based on 1. The break up of a monopoly on gambling by controlling triads in the province and 2. The huge nouveau riche Chinese so nearby and their well know love of gambling.
That night we entered the lately finished Venetia hotel built as an exact replica of the one in Las Vegas but reportedly double in size complete with singing gondoliers and a vast, eager, ready made clientele on the doorstep dying only to get on to the gaming tables and we were stunned! The interior replicates all the sights in Venice albeit in a pretty naif style but with daylight streaming into Piazza S Marco at midnight, the square lined with noodle houses and Chinese food speciality chains, remembering we are in South China and not Italy. We went with the flow and wandered the new shopping malls where 1600 US dollar silk shirts competed with tiffany diamonds to catch the eye of the prosperous gambling man and his lady about town.
The following day we headed for Macau City centre and saw the real development going ahead of unbelievably humungous new casinos - 2000 bed +. The old Lisboa and it’s former owner Stanley Po has built the most gargantuan place opposite in the shape of a lily - you wonder how it stays up and despite it not being finished it is fully operational as a Casino. Games I never knew existed are being played by ever eager to lose their money individuals in the most gold, migraine inducing surroundings I have ever seen - tasteful this is not.
However the owner of the palace of gold has tried to prove to everyone that he is cultured and has purchased the most expensive ever item of the Qing dynasty - a bronze horses head - yes I did at first think that it was a joke on the Las Vegas Barons and their links with the mafia and Frank Sinatra but he spent 64 million Hong Kong Dollars ie around 3 million pounds sterling and it is guarded 24/7 which happens to be the opening hours of the Casino it is displayed in. If you are bored for one minute there are the ever present dancing girls around the clock - they do seem to have a suspiciously similar routine to the Russians in the MP3 nightclub around the corner, who do their dancing around a pole but hey this could be ‘The Moulin Rouge’.
And sex does seem to be a big part of many a Chinese gamblers package and it is not wholly surprising considering the lack of girls in China due to certain cruel policies over the past 30 years. Yes prostitution is big business in the area. I saw weekend packages for Macau at the Hong Kong ferry terminal with ‘Sex all in!’ for the discerning man looking to enjoy the whole weekend in full. Hotels in Macau provide rich pickings for working girls from the world over and it is difficult to escape from. Foot therapy, massage (of course), VIP service, Hotel service are all covers for sexual services and whether you are in the street or innocently going back to your hotel room chances are you will be accosted by one or more of these people.
Just as we were leaving Macau the trial was beginning of the former Macau public works manager who is charged with accepting million upon million of bribes for everything from the long suspension bridge to every casino in town - so long were the list of charges that they took 5 hours to read out in court. I am going to miss old Macau now I am back in the UK. Not for the weather or the gambling, no for the gossip!

The bronze horses head on display in the latest casino

Sunday, 28 October 2007

In the restaurant at the grand view hotel dongguan

The staff are helpful in deciding what we eat which is great as there are always dodgy things on the menu here ie steamed fish heads, toad and pig tendon 5 Stars for these guys though really good place we love it.

Saturday, 27 October 2007


Hong Kong station is well organised. We waited behind the barrier until the time came to go and one official held up a sign for Guanjou and another used a loud hailer and we all burst through to rush for the train.
The train was clean and neat and the hostesses walked up and down with an array of different items to ply. Not at all tempting though, chicken and various slimy things in watery sauces, tea and some books in Chinese. We are hearty eaters but soon lost our appetite looking at that. Credit to them though for offering a non stop service all the way.

Going into Guandong means entering the most industrial and polluted area in the whole world. We passed tower blocks, sometimes scaffolded with bamboo and twine to quite a height - we later found out that bamboo scaffolding is the norm here and there dont seem to be any more accidents and it is environmentally friendly and light too. Shanty villages and even tent homes in the countryside. All shrouded in a fog that became thicker as we went on until it became a brown dense smog.
The taxi in Dongjian had a driver who was either very careful or totally paranoid about being robbed, he was surrounded by a cage. He seemed cautious though and sternly rebuked any misbehaving drivers on the road with his horn. Much of the area we passed is light industrial with workshops below flats. The smog makes it all look depressing.

By the time we arrived at the hotel it was so foggy that we wouldn’t have been surprised if Sherlock Homes had turned up in a hansom cab. The Grand View hotel is 5 star and the number of staff is astounding. 3 are provided in any position when one would normally do. The toilets are manned and disconcertingly they wait outside the door, turn on the tap and politely hold out a towel with both hands. A 5 dollar tip (30p)to the maid almost made her faint with gratitude.
We had to visit the executive foot therapy spa at the hotel where the masseur pummels your feet for over one hour. They are soaked in tea -well I presume that is what it was and you really get an all over massage as well. At the end it feels like new feet.

The restaurant has an area similar to the sea life centre in Bournemouth where all the fish are kept on display. Interesting but it does nothing for the appetite. I am not a fussy eater but much of the food available is quite off putting and strangely bland. I decided to try a river crab as this is quite a delicacy at the moment, male is bigger and better in October. I couldn’t believe it when it arrived. It was hot and bound in a plastic tie. They gave me scissors and a pointy tool and some gloves. In the end there wasn’t much in it and really horribly there was mud all over the claws. Hamid didn’t believe it was mud but some sort of delicacy but I didn’t take any chances and avoided touching that bit. Some of our neighbours on the next tables appeared to be munching right through the bony carcass.

The sea life centre in the restaurant where sharks fin soup, pig ligaments and eggs preserved in horse urine are all available for Chinese gastranomes

Hello missy, hello sir, do you want see copy watch?

Hong Kong must be on my list of favourite places to stay. There is a whole lot to do and see without even knowing the area. The markets were our best thing as they have so much to see. Temple street winds through many roads and you can have your palm read or buy a Breitling copy watch, have anything from a huge array of seafood in an outdoor restaurant or have your name written in Chinese.