Thursday 27 February 2014


Following my spirited drawing in Piazza Express two weeks ago, last  I enjoyed a magnificent burger with cheese and bacon. A good local beer accompanied it.

Am I becoming a foodie?

The place? Zoe's Bar & Grill Odminiu g. 3, Vilnius, Lithuania. 
Zoe's is almost diagonally across from the Cathedral with good reviews in Trip Advisor.

Thursday 20 February 2014


I seem to have started 2014 with an interesting tour of former country mansions.  First Oakley Court near Windsor, The Grove near Watford. Last week it was Dunchurch Park near Rugby.

The estate of Dunchurch, which is a short walk from the village centre and the church was owned by Oxford Union Canal Navigation Company who build the original red brick mansion, the entrance to which is today often draped with wedding parties along the length of its drive way and gardens.

Throughout 19th and 20th century it has been a farmer’s house, a school for the sons of gentlemen and rebuilt in 1908 with extensive remodelling of the gardens. Forty years later Dunchurch Park was purchased by The English Electric Company (later known as GEC Marconi). The company turned into a training college for apprentices. I lodged in what must have then been the accommodation block, paper-thin walls and a tepid shower.

A simply lovely main staircase in rich wood carvings

Dunchurch Park Hotel is heavily promoted as a wedding venue; and with some justification, the setting is quite special. However not everybody’s wedding went off smoothly as reported in the Daily Mail article Are these Britain's worst wedding pictures?

Monday 17 February 2014


As southern England is battered by storms and The Thames continues to rise nearby,  one can be forgiven for retreating into the arms of Pizza Express as we did the other evening when Bron came down from Leicester. As I anticipated the arrival of my 'American' and sipped on my house red . . . 

Friday 14 February 2014

THE GROVE Lots of taste in the toilets

Set in the rolling heart of Hertfordshire, a mere mile or so out of Watford are three hundred acres of countryside and golf. Now a beautiful hotel, spa etc.  Last week it was a great place the Spotify event in which I was involved. The Grove is dripping with 'art' and 'design', one fights one's way through sheaves of dried grasses and drift wood to visit the washroom. 

Poking around for a bit on The Grove’s web sight I toppled onto these lovely pieces of the house’s story

1846 The 5th Earl of Clarendon became Queen Victoria's 'Aide de Camp' - her Secretary and Aide - and started the English tradition of lavish house parties for the Queen and her posse. Houseguests included Edward VII, Horace Walpole and Lord Palmerston.

1920 The aristocratic family left The Grove. The Times published a letter mourning the passing of "One of the greatest political houses of the 19th century.

1920s & 30s The Grove was used as a Gardening School, Health Centre, Riding School and a Girl's Boarding School.

1940s The Grove was the secret wartime HQ for the London, Midland & Scottish Railway. Of great strategic importance, it was called "Project X". Six air raid shelters can still be seen today beside our Football Pitch. They're now home to one of Europe's largest colonies of Pipistrelle bats.

1996 In a ruinous state, The Grove was rescued by Ralph Trustees Limited, who set about breathing a new vision into reality with the help of famous architects, interior designers, landscape gardeners and golfers. Eight years later saw the grand opening of our luxury country house estate hotel & spa… the start of a new era for The Grove.


Monday 10 February 2014



The A12 road is gateway to East Anglia.

Originally this highway followed the route of the Roman road closely and so is fairly straight.  
Claudius set up his first capital at Camulodunum (Colchester) before he upped and moved to Londinium in AD43.

Now the road often modified and improved streams with traffic day and night, cutting through Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk.  

I pulled over and parked up along Cranes Lane to make a drawing of this  humming road set against low fields woodlands as pale February sun sets low and early.

Saturday 8 February 2014


Charlotte’s all over New York,
98–108 final score.
I am in Hectors Café Diner,
Across the street from THE STANDARD
After too long a wait at their bar,
Gross neglect from THE STANDARD’s Maître ‘d
Drove me into the arms of the waitress at Hector’s.
Gross neglect from THE STANDARD’s Maître ‘d
Clear mornings,
A brisk walk to the office on 6th and 18th.

Brisk January days,
Short trip through the canyons.

Bill's Bar my next evening.
Carnivore central.

Hard to be grumpy with New York

Even if treated like chopped liver.