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A January Escapade to London

27th Jan 2015

There’s a man walking down Kensington HIGH STREET. On his right shoulder he has two very marge blue parrots. In his left hand is a lead with a jack Russell on the end. Next to him is his wife, I presume, with another parrot, this one also large but multicoloured; the archetypal parrot if there was one. She also had a dog. It was an unusual sight.

Back in London for the annual General Manager’s Conference which this year took place at the glitzy Hilton on Park Lane. We were staying at the Arch, a fabulous boutiquey hotel just a few years old, down the road from the Cumberland at Marble Arch. Handy. Yet a very peaceful location. The Arch’s owner stayed with us a few months ago whilst he was recovering from some heart surgery. For us London is the opposite. Not incredibly relaxing, but it makes a change from the peace of the Lakes.

It’s January, so Linthwaite is in the middle of its quietest month of the year. We’ve managed to get away for five days this time.

Arrived Friday lunchtime. So, where to eat? Well the Corbin/King operations are always under surveillance from us. We’d never been to Fischers on Marylebone High Street. If you like Austrian brasseries you’ll love it. It’s good but not our favourite Corbin King operation. Still, plenty of time for more. After a stint at the theatre – we definitely picked the wrong show – it was off for some relief at the Colony Bar in the new Beaumont Hotel; yes another Corbin/King venture, their first hotel. It is austere, but we love it. It’s supposed to be a New York Hotel from the 40’s dropped into the heart of Mayfair.

Saturday: Start at Waterloo where the Landscape photography of the year exhibitions available for all to see. Its free too. Lovely shots, especially of the Lakes, where everyone tries hard to produce great landscapes. Next off to Somerset House. A friend had mentioned Chris Stein’s exhibition of Blondie shots from their pomp in the eighties. I was early, so used the time to visit Bryan Adams’ Wounded the Legacy of War, shots of British armed forces personnel who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq with severe wounds. I’m not a fan of his music, but hats off to these brilliantly shocking photos. Everyone should see them. I asked one of the attendants how they managed spending so much time amongst all the disturbing images. “Oh you just get used to it” she said. That’s the same I suppose as the public hearing about these tragedies on the news; we just get used to it.

Chris Stein who was Blondies’ guitarist and lover went to art school and studied photography before he was in the band. These are just evocative snaps of their time mostly in New York. Next stop Tate Modern for the Conflict Time Photography exhibition. Yes, more photos and more conflict. Understanding these photos wasn’t difficult. But the Tate had let too many people in so it was crowded and it was just very difficult to see everything.

Met an old American pal for lunch. He suggested we try Ramsays new place at Heddon St. It was great. If you want a nice relaxing rest whilst shopping in Regent Street/Oxford St. this is a great venue. Nice space at the back too where you can just pop in and have a drink or a coffee. Nothing groundbreaking just good solid reliable menu and excellent staff. Not haut cuisine but also not expensive.

Next we’re off to the National portrait Gallery to see the Taylor-Wessing photo prize portraits. The one that struck us as being the best was not the same as the judges. Ah well it’s all academic. We liked the one of the girl from Pussy Riot, the infamous Russian women’s band that grabbed the headlines a while back. Beautiful shot. So that was the end of culture for the day.

Dinner was at the Cafe Murano, Angela Hartnett’s more informal eatery in St James. It’s where Petrus used to be. Of course she used to work for/with Gordon Ramsay. For the West End this is good value food. Not in love with the decor though; maybe the lights are too bright. Atmosphere is lost when you don’t keep the lights dim.

Sunday: It’s the Adventure Travel show at Olympia, useful. Then the Wildlife Photography at the Natural History museum – brilliant photos. Oh it was time for lunch. Where to go but another Corbin & King production. This time Colbert on Sloane Square. This is the archetypical French brasserie. I love it. Buzzy, sharp, professional, and funny!

Our stay was split between two hotels so we checked into Browns on Albermarle Street. I love Browns because it reminds me of the first hotel I ran in the 70’s, in Hove. Dinner was at Ham Yard, a Firmdale Hotel. Their newest and biggest. Not quite as perfect as we’d like but it’s early days.

Phew!

The conference took place over Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Park Lane. What did I learn? It was all about performance. Watch this space!

Wednesday: Exhausted, fell on to the train and slept. Back to Lake District bliss.

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