Saturday, 22 October 2011
Four nights into my five-night stay in London, where the weather is like the south of France. It's been wall to wall sunshine and blue skies since I arrived on Tuesday evening Oct 18. On Tuesday evening I went to a translators' evening at Pushkin House where I caught up with Robert Chandler, translator of Grossman's Life and Fate, serialised recently on BBCR4. The Russian theme continued on Wednesday Oct 19 with a rehearsal of The Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, courtesy of my sister who is a Friend. A smallish (?50) group filed into the amphitheatre, including sandy-haired Sir John Sainsbury who walked with his wife, a former ballerina, past the bronze bust of himself in the corridor. We had brunch in the Piazza in boiling hot sunshine, at Laduree, home of the pink macaroon. The exquisite layout, pale green chairs etc were in stark contrast to the ear-splitting continuous cabaret just next door, provided by a succession of licensed buskers. In the evening I continued in northern european vein with a friend I have known for 60 years, at Madsen a newish excellent Swedish restaurant just next to South Ken tube station. My friend and I talked about her persistent tickly cough, the perils of tied cottages and the threat to her neck of the woods of an impending major renewal (the first since Victorian times) of London's sewerage system. Thursday Oct 20 was my mother's 94th birthday, celebrated with family and friends in the house she and my father built in 1939. She has updated the house sympathetically over the years, collecting modern pictures and putting Osborne and Little on the walls. The Russian theme returned yesterday, at Sobranie, a new restaurant in Victoria with authentic Russian cooking. We had: Salad Olivier - a staple starter, consisting of ingredients chopped very small, including hard boiled egg; Julienne, another perennial favourite, a small long-handled brass pot containing chopped mushrooms in a cream and cheese sauce; then (I was full by now) pelmeny - Russian version of pasta, little meat- or mushroom-filled bite sized morsels in bouillon. The Russian atmosphere was completed by the maitre d'hotel, a central Asian who hovered in an otherwise empty dining room. I tell a lie: empty except for a table of three who were sampling the menu for a chamber of commerce international evening on Nov 29 for 50.