Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nicest hotel ever

As a child, I often took refuge from my life on a council estate in the north-east of England in the 1980s, by either projecting my imgaination into the future, through science fiction, or into the past, through Agatha Christie books. The 1920s and 1930s represented a world of incredible glamour and sophistication to me (though I didn't notice that only a tiny minority of people actually lived in that world). Agatha's characters lived in chic apartments in London, twee English villages or massive country houses and holidayed in Egypt and other exotic locations. My favourite novel was And Then There Were None (renamed from its original racist title). It was set on an island off the coast of Devon, where all the guests are murdered one by one. I've always wanted to visit the island - and this summer I got to do so. It's called Burgh Island, and has a beautiful art deco hotel, which is like stepping backwards in time.

I was staying in the Josephine Baker suite (click on the pictures for more detail).

This was my bedroom.

After eating an impossibly lovely meal, me and my fella went for a walk. There was a full moon.

Just like General MacArthur in And Then There Were None, I didn't ever want to leave.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

London is much nicer when you have money

I have an odd love-hate relationship with London - a summer there a decade ago when I worked for an awful magazine was like a tribute to Valley of the Dolls, and when I returned to small-town life afterwards, I felt chastened - as if London itself had rejected me - possibly in the same way that the Mathmos rejected Pygar the angel in Barbarella. I certainly had a country mouse naivety and wholesome charm which Londonders found both beguiling and wildly annoying. And now, every time I get off the train at Euston, I feel that London is eyeing me up - "Back again? Couldn't keep away? Well, just bear in mind, we'll take your money but don't ever make the mistake of thinking we want you round here." (Lancaster on the other hand, pulls out all the stops to keep me here for some reason.)

But my last couple of visits have been fun, and that's in spite of my adage that London is only really bearable if you have plenty of spare cash and don't mind spending it. I went to a classical music concert at Wigmore Hall,, which was put on my some graduating students - it was only £6 yet the music was great. And I went to the Geffrye Museum (completely free), which is set in a row of former alms-houses which have now been converted into different rooms from 1600 to the present day.

There is one place where it is worth going if you have a bit of money though. My favourite shop in London is Liberty & Co which has been around since 1875, the Tudor building being constructed in the 1920s. Liberty is full of "fabulous things" - its upper floors arranged around a central light well. There is a cafe where some of the poshest waitresses in the world work. Every single one looks like she has fallen through a time warp out of Merchant Ivory film and is having to adapt to 21st century life in the best way she can. Forget Harrods (vulgar). Liberty is definitely better.