How the other half buy their furniture
We were at the Daily Telegraph House & Garden Fair (which continues at London Olympia until Sunday). Having visited this domestic cornucopia alone a couple of years ago, I knew it would be right up Mrs Weasel's street. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten about the stratospheric price-tags. After cooing over the bowl/seat, her eye was taken by another item from the Wiltshire workshop of John Makepeace, who works on the cusp of art and furniture. "It's a lady's writing desk in burr elm and wych elm - fun but functional," explained a well-scrubbed young man. "The price? It's here somewhere. Yeah, pounds 38,350."
Leaving my partner salivating over a set of cedar-wood drawers in the shape of a Tuscan obelisk ("around pounds 25,000"), I made tracks for the show's centre-piece - four rooms produced by the "biggest names in the interior design world". The first was a dining room and pantry by Nina Campbell (modestly describing herself as "the doyenne of quintessential style"). The setting for the dining room was a library. As always, I found the books irresistible. The imaginary owner appeared to be an eclectic sort of cove, since the vehemently anti-papist Foxe's Book of Martyrs shared a shelf with The Wisdom of Catholicism. I asked Ms Campbell who she had in mind when she created her design? "It's for me!" she hallooed. "My own table is like that. David Lindley makes them for me."
The second showroom I visited was a "waterfall bathroom" by John Stephanides ("he understands luxury"). Though few of us might chose to have a barber's chair in our bathroom, I was pleased to see that soap-on-a-rope is making a come-back. The third display was a sultry lounge by Michael Reeves ("pared- down without being minimalist"). A sign pointed out: "Now that large plasma screens are available at affordable prices, he proposes the return of the home cinema." I asked one of his colleagues what was meant by "affordable"? "That?" she nodded at the huge, slender screen. "About pounds 12,000."
The last of the quartet was Mary Fox Lister ("always ahead of the game"), who guided me round her design for a stylishly cool bedroom and bathroom. "It's not mine, but I wouldn't mind having it," she said. I asked the price of the elegant wooden bed. "You'll have to ask Robert - he's the man for costs." Robert tapped at a calculator. "Best guesstimate is pounds 3,000 - without mattress." Mrs W, who had emerged from the melee of several hundred other middle-class blondes, was transported by Ms Lister's milky- white shower-room, with its sink carved from solid limestone and "prison- chic" lavatory bowl in stainless steel. "That's just what we need..."
Marching her swiftly on, I was gratified to encounter a stand where it was possible to buy a whole house for pounds 2,250 (a half-timbered Tudor job) or even a Queen Anne mansion for pounds 6,450. The only slight drawback was that these tempting price-tags were attached to "architectural playhouses". "Yes, I can do one-offs," said Robin Bruce, of the Children's Cottage Co, Crediton, Devon. "I'd love to do a Frank Lloyd Wright, but I'd prefer not to do Scottish baronial with all those turrets." Mr Bruce revealed that not all his houses were used by children. "I've sold three for dogs and one for ducks." None to weasels so far, but it's a thought.
As we know from his pettish tantrum after the infamous Royal It's A Knock-Out, the new Earl of Wessex is a bit of a behavioural fascist: "You vill enjoy yourselves und pronto!" So it came as no surprise that he prodded royal lensman Sir Geoffrey Shakerley (an inauspicious monicker for a snapper) into performing a spot of digital jiggery-pokery in order to achieve a uniform expression of cheesy euphoria in his wedding picture. Prince William, who was captured by the lens looking less than euphoric, was electronically given a toothy grin transplanted from an earlier photograph. Instead of looking like the standard-issue hacked-off teenager to be found grimacing in the background of virtually every wedding photo ever taken, he now resembles a Disneyland tour guide.
Having discovered the marvels of digital manipulation, the Windsors will surely be tempted to adjust more than a few family portraits taken over the past couple of decades. "Why is there a smudge next to the Princess Royal?" someone is bound to ask.
And a HRH will be able to reply, in all honesty: "It's where there was fog on the film." It will be a tremendous royal joke.
According to one report, Sir Geoffrey's rectification of reality went further than Wills's smile. At the suggestion of Lord Lichfield, who knows a thing or two about photographing royals, he took along a load of telephone directories for the wedding group to stand on. Considering the vertically challenged nature of the House of Windsor, it is a safe bet that the directories were the amply proportioned Central London Yellow Pages rather than the anorexic Sandringham and Area.
A well-heeled tranche of metropolitan Bohemia clustered into the National Gallery last week for the 50th birthday celebration of Thames & Hudson, the UK's leading art-book publisher. While a battalion of bosomy Renaissance beauties gazed down from the walls, the artistic fraternity floored champagne as if their lives depended on it. At one point, an elderly party, possibly overcome by the heat, fell and cracked his head open on a marble pillar. Patched up by medics, he spotted a pal while being helped out. "Marvellous do, isn't it?" he said and, but for the urging of his attendants, would have stayed for a chin-wag. Tough nuts, these aesthetes.
The galleries were packed wall to wall with artists and writers, publishers and critics. Here was Lord St John of Fawsley peering at a Rembrandt, there was Alan Bennett chipping in his two-penn'orth of Yorkshire gumption. However, neither Thames nor Hudson were present, since they happen to be rivers rather than individuals. Since it was founded in 1949 by Walter and Eva Neurath, this estuarial outfit has issued more than 6,000 titles, numerous of which are causing a worrisome bow in the bookshelves of Weasel Villas. If I wish to be reminded that the world is actually in colour, I open Elderfield on Matisse. If I feel the need for a spot of surreal disorientation, I turn to Sylvester on Magritte. And if I want to look at a badly stuffed shark (not a mood that often overwhelms me, I confess), I riffle through the Sensation! book.
However, the T&H publications which I relish most wholeheartedly are not these ground-breaking volumes, but one or two oddities which the company has kept mum about while celebrating "50 years of fine publishing". I should stress that these favourites do not include The Complete Pirelli Calendars (pounds 29.95). (For some reason, the company was reluctant to supply me with a copy of this "paradigm of the genre".) But I often cast an eye over The Ley Hunter's Companion (1979), which insists: "Those who laugh at the idea of energies at ancient sites are well advised to curb their mirth: the wheel is still in spin." T&H was quite right to publish it. Rivers are not solely occupied by glossy craft. There should be room for a few quirky tubs as well.
Can it really be 30 years since man first set foot on the Moon (a walk of two hours 31 minutes, to be exact)? Yep, it sure can - a fact which hardly makes the Weasel feel like a poulet de printemps. To mark the events of 16-24 July 1969, a corking great book of astronautical holiday snaps has just come out.
Full Moon (Cape, pounds 35) is arranged like a moon-shot. It starts with the boiling flames of the blast-off followed by the space-flight. The centrepiece of the book is a hundred or so large, superbly reproduced pictures of the Earth's cindery neighbour. The scarred and pitted moonscape resembles the skin of a blancmange. Finally, we return home via a stunning shot of the Andes at sunset and a queasy close-up of the Pacific.
At the time of the moonshots, everyone remarked how beautiful the Earth looked from space. Though this view has been rendered a cliche by over- reproduction, one shot still retains its magic: a sliver-like crescent of oceanic blue against the murk of outer space. Though it might sound odd, I tend to find the photographs of the Moon somewhat more familiar than our own jewel-like planet. This is because our satellite has a dust problem. "When people talk about long-duration operations on the Moon," warns one spaceman, "the thing they better worry about is the dust."
Mrs Weasel may not thank me for saying this, but the famous shot of Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin's boot print in the lunar dust ("An image that has come to symbolise human exploration of the Moon") reminds me of certain rarely- explored areas in Weasel Villas.
Since feather-dusters were not supplied by Nasa, it is estimated that the astronaut's hoof-mark will remain unchanged for the next one to two million years. It bears out Quentin Crisp's celebrated explanation of why he doesn't bother dusting: "It never gets any worse after the first three months."
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