There is always a good exhibition somewhere in London, often too many. A trip to the Royal Academy on Picadilly is usually worthwhile. We wanted to see the Matisse exhibition this time. How fascinating. There was not an enormous number of painting but they were exhibited alongside some of the objects he used for his work. The idea was to encourage the viewer to look at the objects the way an artist might. I love his use of colour and textiles and this exhibition was no exception. I’ve often thought that if I was asked what books I would want on my Desert Island, a copy of Matisse’s work would be the first thing I’d chose.
There was also an exhibition of the work of Charles Tunnicliffe in the same building.
He was a Royal Academician best known for his illustrations for books. Think Tarka the Otter. (Memo to self – must read.) What became more interesting was copies of the cards he did for Brooke Bond Tea. The cards were in the packets of loose leaf tea and one could send away for a book in which to stick the cards. Seeing those cards and the book brought back all sorts of memories. I’d collected the Birds of Britain. We started talking to the room steward who told us his had collected the Birds of Africa as he had lived in Uganda as a child. He showed us the Ladybird series of books ‘What to Look for in Winter’, and it’s companion volumes. Tunnicliffe was an amazing artist and deserves to be remembered.
At the last meeting of Chudleigh Writers’ Group we each selected a headline from a newspaper and wrote a short story bases on the headline. I worked on the above and produced this.
‘Where shall we go next,’ said Ada, as she poured a cup of tea from a white Doulton tea pot.It was one of her favourite’s, it was such an elegant shape enhanced by a thin line of decoration in green and gold.
‘I’m not sure,’ replied Elsie, crumbling a piece of fruit cake onto a plate bearing the crest of the Imperial Hotel Torquay. ‘We’ve done Burgh Island, Tresanton, that place in Penzance and the Royal in Jersey.’
Neither of them spoke for a few seconds, until Ada said, ‘You know I’d quite like to go up to London. Have a bit of adventure. There’s the Ritz, the Savoy…’ She paused while she thought of other hotels. ‘Brown’s. Isn’t that the place the Middletons’ stayed before the wedding? Lovely wasn’t it?’
‘What Brown’s? Have you been there?’
‘No, the wedding. I do like a good cry. And now there’s George. Sweet.’
‘Really Ada, pull yourself together. We’re trying to plan a serious raid on some of the top hotels in London; not going on a tourist trip. We need to do more than three. What about the Dorchester, Rubens and then there’s Park Lane.’
‘I don’t think I can eat that much cake.’
‘Surely you can two in an afternoon. If we go up by train one Tuesday, better to do mid-week I think. We could do two that afternoon. A bit of retail therapy … hang on what about plates from Harrods.’
‘Elsie, that’s brilliant. There’s Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason. Oh Fortnum’s, one of my favourites. It’s where I met Harold.
‘I didn’t know that. One of those ‘Brief Encounter’ moments in the tearoom?’
‘No, no, he was the lift attendant. We got stuck in the lift. Then he said he’d better make an honest women of me.
Elsie raised her eyebrows at the thought of hanky panky in the lift at Fortnum’s. ‘Back to our trip to the big city. Harrods first morning, two hotels in the afternoon. Then Selfridges for coffee, two more hotels after lunch. Fortnum’s just before we catch the train back. Quite a trip, two nights in London; train fares…you do have a railcard Ada?’
‘Yes, yes. We’ll need to dress up a bit. Perhaps we could do a musical as well. Make a real expedition of it.’
Elsie wasn’t paying attention. ‘We’ll need quite capacious handbags; three plates as well as purses, make-up and what ever other rubbish you normally carry.’
‘Not just me. You have all sorts of things in your handbag. Have you still got that fur, Elsie? You could wear that.’
‘I’m not sure. I have a nice coat I bought in Jaeger. In the sale mind you and it was ten years ago. Well retro’s in fashion isn’t it?’
She wasn’t expecting an answer.
‘It’s the bags I’m worried about. We’ve used shoppers and beach bags before. Can’t go to the Ritz in flip flops and carrying a beach bag. I don’t think I’ve got a leather bag big enough, Elsie.’
‘We’ll have to try the charity shops if we haven’t got anything in our wardrobes. This raid is taking some planning. We’ll have to book a table at the Ritz, I wonder how far ahead that will be. Still a few months will give us time for meticulous planning, getting our disguises in place. I’ll telephone now, shall I.’
‘Yes do,’ said Ada, sipping from her cup of tea.