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In 2016, friends of ours gave us a bottle of Hart of Gold English sparkling wine.

That was the year Hart of Gold won a Gold Medal at The International Wine Challenge.

We rather enjoyed it, and now that the height of summer is upon us, my British readers might be interested in sparkling refreshment.

Hart of Gold makes a reasonably priced host/hostess gift that everyone who likes a glass of fizz will enjoy.

(Image credit: wine-searcher.com)

The bottle is also a delight to read. The front label says:

MADE IN THE REALM OF ALBION

The back label winsomely describes the occasions which it suits best:

Just the ticket for boating expeditions and sheltering from the rain in a marquee, it is also worth opening a bottle at the end of a long day, just to toast the sunset reflected in your loved one’s eyes (even if your loved one is a labrador).

A quote from Justin Howard-Sneyd MW (Master of Wine) follows:

We hope you enjoy it!

Hart of Gold was made and bottled in Ditchling, Sussex, by Ridgeview Wine Estate, owned by the Roberts Family.

They use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes to come up with a very good product indeed.

Glass of Bubbly has more interesting information about this sparkling wine, which cannot be called Champagne, as it was not made in that region of France.

The English references hearken back to the days in mediaeval times when England was a wine producer (yes!):

‘Hart of Gold’ which is inspired by England’s rich history of viticulture especially in the Middle Ages. The name draws on folk legends of an elusive and mysterious white stag with golden horns – The Hart. This legend fascinated Richard II, who made the Hart his personal symbol.

Their article says that Justin Howard-Sneyd MW has spent his whole career in selling — and, more recently, making — wine:

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW has spent years buying wine and advising winemakers on how to make and market their wines, so has now decided to put his money where his mouth is and launch his own English Sparkling Wine.

After working at Chapel Down in 1997, Justin went on to buy English wine for Safeway, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, being instrumental in planting the John Lewis Partnership’s vineyard at Leckford Estate in Hampshire.

Whilst Global Wine Director at Laithwaite’s Wine, Justin started an initiative whereby anyone who worked in the Theale office was invited to adopt a vine in the 700-vine award-winning Theale vineyard …

Justin has worked with the Roberts Family at Ridgeview to produce Hart of Gold …

The article provides the tasting notes:

Eyes: A lovely pale gold in colour, with a persistent stream of fine bubbles.
Nose: A combination of citrus and stone fruit with rich toasty notes
Mouth: Complex flavours of refreshing citrus, alongside distinctive toastiness are underpinned by balanced acidity and a long mouth-watering finish.

Domaine of the Bee has more detailed information for oenophiles.

Time’s running out to buy Hart of Gold, as the drinking window expires in 2018.

This is your last chance to buy what remains of Hart of Gold 2010.

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Before President and Mrs Trump left Stansted Airport for Scotland on July 13, 2018, Piers Morgan — the first winner of the American show Celebrity Apprentice — was granted exclusive access to Air Force One.

Morgan’s world exclusive interview was reported in various news outlets last weekend. The full interview aired on ITV1 on Monday’s edition of Good Morning Britain and again later that evening.

Morgan noted that time was of the essence that day. When Air Force One is at an airport, arrivals and departures are blocked until it leaves. As the Trumps’ visit with the Queen lasted 17 minutes longer than scheduled, they were delayed in getting back to Stansted. Morgan was keenly aware of this. That said, the interview was excellent, as he and the US president are long-time friends.

This is not the first time Morgan has had exclusive interview access:

It need not have been that way in January:

Last week, Morgan received a lot of criticism on Twitter from fellow journalists. As to why he never interviewed Obama:

‘Entertainers’ also had a swipe at Morgan:

Let’s face it, had other journalists been even somewhat objective, they, too, could have interviewed Trump. Only Lincoln Film & Media in England seemed cognisant of this. Well done:

Even Pip Tomson of ITV1’s Good Morning Britain didn’t mind missing a sports filled weekend to put finishing touches on an amazing interview:

Whilst waiting for Trump to return from Windsor Castle, Morgan explained the significance of Air Force One:

Metro gave us an inside scoop from Morgan:

But I’ve got to say, standing there, looking at Air Force One, going up those steps doing a little cheeky wave, which you’re not supposed to do… I thought since he was doing that anyway with the Queen, I thought I could do a bit of protocol breaking myself.

Then you get on this plane, which is just the most high-tech, sophisticated, extraordinary thing that flies in the entire world.

Air Force One staff gave him a tour of the plane:

I’ve been on a few fancy planes in my time but nothing quite like this one.

He pointed out that, when the president is on board:

Morgan wrote an article for the Mail on Sunday about his experience (emphases mine):

‘I’m sorry Mr Morgan, but you can’t sit in that chair. Only the President of the United States of America ever sits in that chair.’

I was in the Situation Room of Air Force One, the airplane used to fly the most powerful human being on earth around the world.

Hannah, the presidential aide tasked with escorting me around it, was very polite but also VERY firm.

‘You can in one of those,’ she suggested, pointing to one of the chairs around the Situation Room desk. ‘They swivel.’

Morgan continued to explore the Situation Room:

Under the TV are three digital clocks. They permanently display the same three times – Washington DC, local time and time in the next destination. To the right of the TV was a brown leather sofa. Two hi-tech phones were behind it.

‘Can I pick one up and call someone?’ I asked, reaching down to phone Lord Sugar and boast about where I was.

‘NO!!!!!’ exclaimed another aide. ‘Do NOT touch those phones… please. Thank you, sir.’

The President’s staff all exude an air of delightfully polite menace.

Morgan then checked out dinner for that Friday evening:

Cucumber Thai salad, a medley of cucumbers, radishes, spicy red chillis, chopped peanuts, basil, cilantro and mint, tossed in a homemade vinaigrette.

Thai baked salmon fillet, baked in sweet chilli sauce over a bed of jasmine rice.

Tarte lemon bar, topped with crunchy shortbread crumbles.

Metro reported:

perhaps the most surprising revelation is that the US president has specially packaged M&Ms – the blue and white striped box even has his signature on the back.

In fact, it turns out the plane is packed with sweets, also including presidential Hershey’s Kisses

‘He’s got an Oval Office there, he’s got a Situation Room, he’s even got his M&Ms. His presidential boxes of M&MS, with Donald J Trump on the back. If you get on Air Force One, you get to eat the M&Ms. Fascinating, fascinating evening.’

Morgan wrote in his aforementioned Mail on Sunday article that the staff were most thoughtful with regard to the chocolates:

‘Can I take some?’ I asked an aide.

‘We’re already ahead of you, Mr Morgan,’ smiled Hannah, handing me a large bag of the M&Ms and a dozen boxes of Air Force One matchboxes. They will solve the perennial ‘what do you get someone who’s got everything?’ birthday present dilemma. Money can’t buy this stuff.

Morgan wrote that, at one point, things got very structured very quickly:

‘The President will be here in 25 minutes,’ said Hannah, escorting me to the Situation Room. ‘Please tell your crew to hurry.’

There was now a controlled, super-efficient frenzy to her behavioural pattern. The ITV crew, who’d all been extensively security screened by the Secret Service, hurried.

No other plane was being allowed to take off or land from Stansted until Air Force One departed. So every second I delayed things meant thousands of members of the public being delayed. That’s an unusual burden for an interviewer who wants to get as much time as he can possibly get from the President when he arrives.

Several senior Air Force One staff came to introduce themselves. They were all chisel-jawed but extremely courteous. The kind of people who would kill you with their bare hands, but then apologise.

We shot some behind-the-scenes footage, then Hannah rushed back in.

‘OK, we need to de-clutter this room asap.’

We de-cluttered.

Shortly afterwards, the US ambassador Robert Wood ‘Woody’ Johnson boarded with his wife. Morgan said they were on their way to Turnberry with the Trumps for the weekend:

Suddenly, the plane’s intercom system announced it would be five minutes until the President arrived and energy levels on the plane instantly rocketed. People were streaming all over the place, making sure everything was perfectly prepared.

I looked again out of the window and saw a fleet of helicopters including Marine One sweeping down to land next to Air Force One.

Chief of Staff John Kelly appeared:

My brother, a British Army colonel, speaks very highly of him as a military leader, and he certainly exudes an impressive air of calm authority.

‘How long do you need with the President?’ he asked.

‘As long as I can squeeze the lemon,’ I replied.

We both laughed, knowing it would be entirely at the whim of President Trump how long the lemon would allow itself to be squeezed.

Then the president appeared. Mrs Trump stopped by briefly before leaving the two men to the interview. Of the Trumps, Morgan observed:

she and Donald still seem as relaxed and happy in each other’s company as they always seemed before he went into politics.

‘I hope this doesn’t sound too patronising,’ I told her, ‘but I have great admiration for the way you have conducted yourself as First Lady. A friend of mine (Sarah Brown) did this kind of job when her husband became British Prime Minister so I know how tough it can be.’

‘I just feel it’s important to be true to yourself,’ she smiled.

Then, it was down to business:

… after Melania left, he got into game mode.

‘OK, let’s go,’ he barked, ‘the plane’s waiting to take off!’

I’d been told we had a maximum of 15 minutes for the interview, due to the flight schedule

Our long time friendship is why I am the only British TV journalist he speaks to (this was my fourth interview with him since he ran for President, two as a candidate, two as POTUS.)

Please do read the rest of the article, which is essentially a transcript of the interview.

Trump answered questions about his meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May and a possible post-Brexit trade deal. The Daily Express carried the exchange:

The President said he was certain there was a good deal to be done between the two nations.

“I think we’re going to have a great trade deal,” he told Piers Morgan. “I’ve really no doubt about it.

“We’re going to get it.

“Now, if they do whatever they do, they had to, I said make sure you gave a carve out — you know I call it a carve out from this,” he continued. “You have to have a carve out — where no matter what happens, they have the right to make a deal with the United States.”

“And has Theresa May looked you in there eye and said, ‘We will get there’?” Morgan quizzed him.

“Well, she feels she’s going to be able to make a deal and yeah,” the President replied. “And again, I have to tell you, I really like her.”

Morgan asked Trump about his plans for 2020:

Also during their 30-minute conversation, Morgan quizzed the President about whether he will run again in 2020.

“I fully intend to,” Trump told him.

“You never know, err, what happens with health and other things, and we know, let’s face it —“ he continued, before Morgan interrupted: “Are you fit? You look fit.”

“I feel good,” the President replied, saying it “seems like everybody” wants him to run again.

Reuters had a bit more:

Trump said he did not see any Democrat who could beat him: “I don’t see anybody. I know them all and I don’t see anybody.”

Morgan asked Trump about the Queen. The president knows better than to divulge specifics of their conversation, but he had nothing but compliments for her:

On Monday, July 16, as Trump was about to meet with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Morgan discussed aspects of his interview with a CNN presenter. He quoted Trump expressing his desire to bring about world peace and concisely summarised the current Brexit situation.

The presenter’s wincing smile fades quickly to a stony look. The cameras cut away from her while Morgan was talking. No doubt steam was coming out of her ears. Disgraceful.

Good job, Piers, for staying the course:

Morgan clearly enjoyed the experience:

As I write, the interview can be seen on ITV Player for the next few weeks (account required, which is no big deal). N.B.: I am not sure if it is geo-localised.

After the interview, the Trumps were on their way to Scotland for some R&R. No one could have anticipated what happened there, and I’m not talking about protesters. More to come next week.

On Friday, July 13, 2018, President Trump met with the UK’s two most powerful women.

In the morning, he met with Prime Minister Theresa May at the prime ministerial weekend residence, Chequers, regarding US-UK trade deals post-Brexit. Philip May, meanwhile, was with Melania Trump at Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Before arriving in Brussels for the NATO conference, Trump made frank remarks about the UK. On July 10, the Daily Mail reported (emphases mine):

Speaking to journalists as he set off for Europe, Mr Trump said there were a ‘lot of things’ going on in the UK at the moment and the country seemed to be ‘somewhat in turmoil’.

‘The UK certainly has a lot of things going on,’ he said.  

Boris Johnson’s a friend of mine. He’s been very, very nice to me. Very supportive.

‘And maybe we’ll speak to him when I get over there. 

I like Boris Johnson. I’ve always liked him.’ 

Asked by DailyMail.com whether Mrs May should continue as PM, Mr Trump said ‘that is up to the people’.

However, he added that he had a ‘very good relationship’ with Mrs May. 

Mr Trump joked that his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin might be the ‘easiest’ leg of his trip to Europe.

The Mail said that the Prime Minister was unruffled and looked forward to meeting with Trump:

Asked directly abut his incendiary comments, she said: ‘I am looking forward to seeing president Trump not only at the Nato summit in the next couple of days but also when he comes to the UK. 

‘There is much for us to discuss.’

She added: ‘We will be talking positively about how we can continue to work together in our special relationship for the good of people living in the UK and the United States and, actually, for the wider good‘ …

Downing Street insisted they were ‘relaxed’ about the intervention, pointing out that Mr Trump also stressed his ‘very good’ relations with Mrs May. A spokesman said the president was ‘being humorous’ with his remark about the Putin meeting.

The weekend before, Mrs May convened ministers at Chequers to put forward a ‘soft’ Brexit plan, released as a government white paper on the day of the dinner at Blenheim Palace, July 12. A number of MPs resigned their ministerial posts as a result. A leadership contest could well be in the offing. In addition to Boris Johnson, another front runner is the ‘hard’ Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who took London’s LBC talk radio calls on July 10:

This seems off-topic until one considers that Trump said that the US might not be able to make trade deals with the UK in the case of a ‘soft’ (EU-tied) Brexit. Instead, the US might have to negotiate with the EU to trade with Britain.

Whilst the dinner May put on for the Trumps, the American entourage and British business leaders at Blehneim Palace on July 12 went very well, Trump had sounded a warning on future trade negotiations in a Sun interview that appeared that evening. BT.com reported:

Donald Trump has warned Theresa May her Brexit plan could “kill” any UK-US trade deal because Britain would remain so closely aligned to the European Union.

The US president said he would have done the Brexit negotiations “much differently” and claimed the Prime Minister did not listen to his advice, in an interview with The Sun.

His highly-controversial remarks came at the end of a day in which he had already waded deeply into the Brexit row over Theresa May’s white paper ahead of his first official visit to Britain as President.

He had used a Thursday morning press conference in Brussels to attack the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan and highlight Cabinet divisions.

In a Sun interview released while Mr Trump and First Lady Melania were being entertained by the Prime Minister at Blenheim Palace, the president said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal”.

The comments, following on from the morning press conference, will a cause of great concern for Mrs May.

She had used the Blenheim black tie dinner with political and business leaders to press Mr Trump on the benefits of a free trade deal after Brexit …

Speaking to reporters in Belgium after a fiery Nato Summit, Mr Trump had described the UK as a “hot spot right now with a lot of resignations” and dismissed the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan on the next stage of Brexit.

That day, May’s 98-page white paper appeared, proffering an ‘Association Agreement’ with the EU. BT.com reported:

The 98-page document sets out a significantly “softer” version of Brexit than desired by more eurosceptic Tories, and prompted the resignation of Boris Johnson and David Davis from Mrs May’s Cabinet earlier this week.

Extracts of Mr Davis’s alternative White Paper, published on the ConservativeHome website, show that the former Brexit secretary was planning a “Canada plus plus plus” free trade deal based on mutual recognition of independent systems of regulation.

By contrast, Mrs May’s plan involves the UK accepting a “common rulebook” on trade in goods, with a treaty commitment to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules.

It envisages the UK entering an Association Agreement with the EU and making continued payments for participation in shared agencies and programmes.

And it states that an independent arbitration panel set up to resolve UK-EU disputes will be able to seek guidance from the European Court of Justice, but only on the interpretation of EU law.

The Eurosceptics are correct: that is not what 52% of voters had in mind when they voted to Leave on June 23, 2016. Trump was diplomatic:

Mr Trump said it seemed the Prime Minister’s plans meant the UK was “getting at least partially involved back with the European Union”.

Borrowing one of Mrs May’s old slogans, Mr Trump told a Brussels press conference: “I would say Brexit is Brexit. The people voted to break it up so I would imagine that’s what they would do, but maybe they’re taking a different route – I don’t know if that is what they voted for.”

That was part of the backdrop to Trump’s meeting with May.

However, there is also a historical aspect to America’s trade with Britain, explored below:

Over the past few years:

Meetings had taken place beforehand between Liam Fox and Woody Johnson:

Defence is highly important …

… as is international co-operation:

With the last two areas of shared interest in mind, it was not surprising that the Prime Minister hosted Trump at Sandhurst that morning before their meeting at Chequers:

After the bilateral meetings at Chequers concluded, May and Trump held a joint press conference (YouTube video here), excerpted below.

PRIME MINISTER MAY: … This morning, President Trump and I visited Sandhurst, where we saw a demonstration of joint working between British and American special forces. Just one example of what is today the broadest, deepest, and most advanced security cooperation of any two countries in the world …

That partnership is set to grow, with our armies integrating to a level unmatched anywhere, and the UK set to spend £24 billion on U.S. equipment and support over the next decade.

Today, we’ve also discussed how we can deepen our work together to respond to malign state activity, terrorism, and serious crime. In particular, on Russia, I thanked President Trump for his support in responding to the appalling use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, after which he expelled 60 Russian intelligence officers. And I welcomed his meeting with President Putin in Helsinki on Monday. We agreed that it is important to engage Russia from a position of strength and unity, and that we should continue to deter and counter all efforts to undermine our democracies.

Turning to our economic cooperation, with mutual investment between us already over $1 trillion, we want to go further. We agreed today that, as the UK leaves the European Union, we will pursue an ambitious U.S.-UK free trade agreement. The Chequers Agreement reached last week provides the platform for Donald and me to agree an ambitious deal that works for both countries right across our economies, a deal that builds on the UK’s independent trade policy, reducing tariffs; delivering a gold standard in financial services cooperation; and, as two of the world’s most advanced economies, seizing the opportunity of new technology …

And that is why I’m confident that this transatlantic alliance will continue to be the bedrock of our shared security and prosperity for years to come.

Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. Prime Minister, thank you very much. And it is my true honor to join you at this remarkable setting — truly magnificent — as we celebrate the special relationship between our two countries. On behalf of the American people, I want to thank you for your very gracious hospitality. Thank you very much, Theresa …

Today, it’s a true privilege to visit historic Chequers that I’ve heard so much about and read so much about growing up in history class, and to continue our conversation, which has really proceeded along rapidly and well over the last few days …

Before our dinner last night, Melania and I joined Prime Minister May, Mr. May, and the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough for a tour of the Winston Churchill Exhibit at Blenheim Palace. It was something; it was something very special. It was from right here at Chequers that Prime Minister Churchill phoned President Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor. In that horrific war, American and British servicemembers bravely shed their blood alongside one another in defense of home and in defense of freedom. And together, we achieved a really special, magnificent victory. And it was total victory …

In our meetings today, the Prime Minister and I discussed a range of shared priorities, including stopping nuclear proliferation. I thanked Prime Minister May for her partnership in our pursuit of a nuclear-free North Korea. She’s been a tremendous help.

The Prime Minister and I also discussed Iran. We both agree that Iran must never possess a nuclear weapon and that I must halt, and we must do it — and I’m going to do it and she’s going to do it, and we’re all going to do it together. We have to stop terrorism. It’s a scourge. We have to stop terrorism. And we have to get certain countries — and they’ve come a long way, I believe — the funding of terrorism has to stop, and it has to stop now.

I encouraged the Prime Minister to sustain pressure on the regime. And she needed absolutely no encouragement, because she, in fact, also encourages me. And we’re doing that, and we’re doing that together — very closely coordinated.

The United Kingdom and the United States are also strengthening cooperation between our armed forces, who serve together on battlefields all around the world.

Today, the Prime Minister and I viewed several U.S.-UK Special Forces demonstration — we saw some demonstrations today, frankly, that were incredible. The talent of these young brave, strong people. We saw it at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Seamless cooperation between our militaries is really just vital to addressing the many shared security threats. We have threats far different than we’ve ever had before. They’ve always been out there, but these are different and they’re severe. And we will handle them well.

We also recognize the vital importance of border security and immigration control. In order to prevent foreign acts of terrorism within our shores, we must prevent terrorists and their supporters from gaining admission in the first place …

I also want to thank Prime Minister May for pursuing fair and reciprocal trade with the United States. Once the Brexit process is concluded, and perhaps the U.K. has left the EU — I don’t know what they’re going to do, but whatever you do is okay with me. That’s your decision. Whatever you’re going to do is okay with us. Just make sure we can trade together; that’s all that matters. The United States looks forward to finalizing a great bilateral trade agreement with the United Kingdom. This is an incredible opportunity for our two countries, and we will seize it fully.

We support the decision of the British people to realize full self-government, and we will see how that goes. Very complicated negotiation and not an easy negotiation, that’s for sure. A strong and independent United Kingdom, like a strong and independent United States, is truly a blessing on the world.

Prime Minister May, I want to thank you again for the honor of visiting the United Kingdom — a special place. My mother was born here, so it means something maybe just a little bit extra; maybe even a lot extra. And we had a wonderful visit. Last night, I think I got to know the Prime Minister better than at any time. We spent a lot of time together over a year and a half. But last night, we really — I was very embarrassed for the rest of the table. We just talked about lots of different problems and solutions to those problems. And it was a great evening.

As we stand together this afternoon at Chequers, we continue a long tradition of friendship, collaboration, and affection between ourselves and also between our people. The enduring relationship between our nations has never been stronger than it is now.

So, Madam Prime Minister, thank you very much. It’s been an honor. Thank you. Thank you, Theresa.

BT.com reported that Trump apologised for the biting statements he had made to The Sun (article since updated to show photos of his UK visit) before he arrived. The article also has a photo of Mrs May smiling broadly:

Mr Trump said he apologised to Mrs May over the Sun front page story, and she replied: “Don’t worry it’s only the press.”

But he repeated his praise of Mr Johnson, saying: “Boris Johnson, I think, would be a great prime minister.”

Mrs May said it was “all of our responsibility to ensure that transatlantic unity endures”.

The PM said the United States is “keen” to do a deal with the UK.

“We will do a trade deal with them and with others around the rest of the world,” she added.

Then it was time for the US president to rejoin his wife and meet the Queen at Windsor Castle.

Elizabeth II has met every serving US president during her reign, except, it seems, for Lyndon Johnson. She has met Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama — and, now, Donald Trump.

Visiting the Queen meant a lot to President Trump, because his mother, born in Scotland, was an avid fan of hers and watched her appearances when they were transmitted in the US.

He gave The Sun his longstanding impressions of her earlier in the week:

You can see how pleased he was here:

BT.com reported that the visit, which included tea, lasted longer than previously scheduled:

The president, whose visit to Windsor Castle lasted 57 minutes – 17 more than expected – kept his jacket unbuttoned.

The Queen greeted the Trumps:

The monarch and the president then inspected a Guard of Honour:

Then:

The video below gives a view of where the Queen and her guests stood in relation to the Guards:

Afterwards:

Here is a bit of history about the Coldstream and Grenadier Guards:

Then it was time for a tour — and tea:

The Queen provided a reception for those accompanying the president, which included his press secretary:

These two short videos nicely recap the Trumps’ first official visit to England:

Then it was off to Scotland for the weekend at the president’s Turnberry golf resort:

More about Trump’s weekend tomorrow.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump left NATO for England on the afternoon of Thursday, July 12, 2018.

Mrs Trump enjoyed her time in Brussels:

The day before the Trumps’ arrival in England, a distinguished former British ambassador to the United States had been brutally attacked at Victoria Station. One possible reason? He defended President Trump:

Prayers for Sir Christopher’s full and swift recovery. He must be in much pain. The Daily Mail reported (emphases mine):

Sir Christopher Meyer, 74, was at Victoria when he was set upon by two attackers, his wife said to The Times

The retired diplomat, who was on his way home, was left with a bleeding and swollen eye socket, a burst lip and a suspected broken nose

Sir Christopher’s wife, Baroness Meyer, said he does not remember the attack, but that police believe the pair may have wanted to rob him.

I’m absolutely shocked by the level of the brutality. They really beat him. It’s appalling — like something you would see in a war zone,’ she said.

‘He looks terrible.  

His left eye is like a golf ball and bleeding, the nose looks like it could be broken. At first I thought that the attack was politically motivated

He is opinionated, and sometimes people have different opinions, but the police told me they believe that it is more likely that they might have wanted to rob him’ …

Fortunately:

Baroness Meyer told The Times nothing was stolen and police ‘acted quickly’ and the first thing her husband remembers was them being by his side.

Sir Christopher served as ambassador to the US during the latter end of the Clinton years and the first two of Bush II’s tenure:

He spent six years in Washington, from 1997 to 2003, becoming the longest-serving holder of his office since 1945.

As ambassador, he welcomed around 35,000 guests to his home a year and was made Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.

After retiring, he became chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, the former newspaper regulatory body.

For President Trump, the UK is a yuge danger zone. The Conservative Treehouse explained:

The U.K. is considered the most dangerous nation in the world for a terror threat against the President. The scale of the security force assigned to protect President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump is three times larger than the traveling military deployed/needed during the 2017 Mid-east trip to Saudi Arabia.

The following video shows the arrival of Air Force One at Stansted Airport in the county of Essex, just outside of London. Ambassador Robert Wood ‘Woody’ Johnson and UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox met the couple, who took Marine One to the centre of the capital, where they stayed at the US ambassador’s residence, Winfield House, in Regents Park:

Winfield House was commissioned by and owned by Barbara Woolworth Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth fortune, in 1936. Her grandfather Frank’s middle name was Winfield, hence the name and the branded line of Woolworth’s products.

During the Second World War, the Royal Air Force used Winfield House as a 906 barrage balloon unit and as an officer’s club. Interestingly, Hutton was married to actor Cary Grant at the time. They divorced in 1945, after three years. He used to visit Winfield House from time to time.

After the war, Hutton sold the house to the US government for one dollar. Initially, the US Third Air Force used the building as an officer’s club. It became the official US ambassador’s residence in 1955 and remains so to this day:

That evening, America’s first couple were guests of Prime Minister Theresa May at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, home to the Dukes of Marlborough and Winston Churchill during his early life. The Spencer-Churchill family still live there and parts of the palace — e.g. the state apartments — are open to the public.

The Trumps left Winfield House to be airlifted to Blenheim Palace:

The Prime Minister and her husband, Philip May, greeted the Trumps upon arrival:

The purpose of the dinner was to introduce the president to British business leaders in the hopes of forging trade between the two countries post-Brexit.

With that in mind, the Americans from Trump’s cabinet and administration were also invited:

Beforehand, there was time for a photo op and a military ceremony with music:

Then, they went inside:

Sky News reported:

The US president and First Lady Melania Trump were given a red carpet reception at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, where the prime minister pressed her case for an ambitious new trade deal after Brexit.

Addressing Mr Trump in front of an audience of business leaders at Winston Churchill’s birthplace, Mrs May insisted that Brexit provides an opportunity for an “unprecedented” agreement to boost jobs and growth.

And in an apparent plea to the president to remember his allies when he meets Vladimir Putin on Monday, Mrs May noted that Britain and America work closely on security “whether through targeting Daesh terrorists or standing up to Russian aggression”.

The military bands played music prior to departure:

No doubt the evening ended all too soon for some:

I can appreciate Dan Scavino’s enthusiasm. Everyone who visits Blenheim Palace enjoys it.

Tomorrow’s post will look at what happened on Friday, July 13.

A Twitter user from Britain enquired what people’s impressions of President Trump were during his visit to the UK last week.

The poll was taken by:

Here are the poll results:

A superb comment thread follows. This poll did not go as planned:

I especially liked this comment from MAGA!!! Mattdaddy:

Nice one!

Oh, well, better luck next time!

Detailed posts on the NATO summit and President Trump’s visit to the UK will follow next week.

For now, Prime Minister Theresa May’s husband Philip May hosted First Lady Melania Trump on Friday, July 13, 2018, more about which below.

As the Trump baby balloon was being inflated before floating over Parliament Square, President Trump was on his way to Sandhurst with the US ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood ‘Woody’ Johnson.

BT.com reports:

He is expected to view a joint US-UK special forces military demonstration at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst …

The president flew into the British Army’s official training centre on Marine One, preceded by two accompanying helicopters.

Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to Britain, was onboard with Mr Trump.

Also attending Sandhurst are several of the president’s aides, including John Kelly, John Bolton and Stephen Miller.

The report left out the Prime Minister:

Meanwhile, Philip May met Mrs Trump at the historic Royal Hospital Chelsea. Suzanne Johnson, the ambassador’s wife, accompanied her. They were greeted by Lieutenant Colonel Nicky Mott, hospital CEO Gary Lashko and Chelsea pensioners John Riley, Alan Collins and Marjorie Cole:

Mrs Trump also met pupils from Saint George’s Church of England primary school, who were making Remembrance Day poppies:

When she arrived into the room, she said “good morning” and asked the children if they would like to show her how to make the poppies.

Mrs Trump had a go at making one, and told the children: “Thank you for helping me.”

She showed Mr May her effort and joked: “Very professional.”

After the poppy making, Mrs Trump listened to school children talk about values and service.

Mrs Trump sat in front of a poster which said “Be the best you can be”.

Mrs Trump recently launched a campaign for American schoolchildren called ‘Be Best’, a poster for which shows in the following tweet:

St George’s has a programme called ‘Be the Best You Can Be’:

Then it was time for bowls:

Meanwhile, Prime Minister May and President Trump were engaging in talks at the weekend home of British prime ministers, Chequers:

One can only imagine what is going through Trump’s mind. Probably something along the lines of, ‘This is a historic moment, because, next time I come here, Theresa May will no longer be Prime Minister’. Sadly, that is a very real possibility — through her own doing for a ‘soft’ Brexit.

By the time this post appears, President and Mrs Trump will have enjoyed tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle and will be in Scotland at Trump’s golf resort, Turnberry, for the weekend.

Mrs Trump tweeted her thanks for a lovely Friday morning:

In closing, for those who are interested, this BT.com article has more information on Mrs Trump’s attire.

On Tuesday, July 10, 2018, Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) celebrated 100 years of defending the United Kingdom.

The most important part of the day was the RAF’s receiving a new colour from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The colour was consecrated at Westminster Abbey:

A Service of Thanksgiving, open to the public, was also held that morning at St Clement Danes in the Strand, the Central Church of the Royal Air Force. The church is unusual as it sits in the middle of the Strand.

Afterwards, the Presentation of the Colours was made at Buckingham Palace, where the RAF gathered in the forecourt. The centenary ceremony attracted a large number of spectators around the Palace and along the Mall, suitably decorated with Union flags and RAF flags:

The Presentation of Colours ended with a magnificent flypast of RAF planes from the Second World War to the present day. They flew in from various RAF bases around the country. It took months of work behind the scenes logistically to ensure that the planes — numbering 100 in total — arrived for the flypast on time and in position.

This is the Queen’s relationship to the RAF:

Below are a series of tweets of the ceremony:

Afterwards:

Another reception took place on Horse Guards parade:

It was yet another occasion to make one feel proud to be British!

Profound thanks go to the RAF for all they have done — and continue to do — in defence of the nation!

May God continue to guide and bless the RAF over the next 100 years!

It was a year ago at this time in May that I visited one of London’s best kept secrets, Pollock’s Toy Museum.

I’d not heard of it until a good friend of mine suggested it as a place I could take my two American friends who were in town during the Whit Sun (Pentecost) Bank Holiday weekend. (Incidentally, this particular weekend was renamed some time ago to Spring Bank Holiday. But, I digress.)

My friends asked to go to a place that was non-touristy. We couldn’t have asked for a better venue, and, for that, I am ever grateful to my friend for the suggestion. He had been there as a boy.

If you want information only about the museum, skip the History part which follows and go to The Pollock’s Toy Museum experience section near the end.

History

The museum

How Pollack’s got to be a museum and in its current location near Goodge Street Tube station is a real rabbit hole.

The museum’s website glosses over a number of moves and transitions. No doubt most visitors aren’t that interested in the finer details:

Pollock’s was originally a shop and printers, dating back to the 1850’s, based in Hoxton, then a poor quarter of London. Benjamin Pollock’s hand printed, constructed and coloured much of the toy theatre material housed in the museum today.

The museum was created and the shop stock re-designed during the 1950’s and 60’s by Marguerite Fawdry It came to it’s current location in the late 1960’s where it has remained. The collection has been built up by purchases, donations from friends, family and the public. It is an independent family run concern. It is run more for the benefit of the public and to display the collection than for profit.

The museum’s Wikipedia page states:

The museum was started in 1956 in a single attic room at 44 Monmouth Street, near Covent Garden, above Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop, where Pollock’s Toy Theatres were also sold. As the enterprise flourished, other rooms were taken over for the museum and the ground floor became a toyshop. By 1969 the collection had outgrown the Monmouth Street premises and Pollock’s Toy Museum moved to 1 Scala Street, with a museum shop on the ground floor to contribute to its support. The museum continues today to be run by the grandson of the founder Marguerite Fawdry.[2]

I then ran across a December 2014 page at ArenaPAL, ‘Behind the Scenes at the Pollocks Toy Theatre Shop Factory Workshop’, which begins with this (emphasis in the original):

‘If you love art, folly or the bright eyes of children, speed to Pollock’s’ …wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in an essay which immortalised Pollock’s Toy Shop – a business that was started in 1856 and still runs today from Covent Garden in London.

Robert Louis Stevenson? I will get to his role in a moment.

ArenaPAL‘s page has interesting photographs from the mid-1940s, showing a little boy admiring one of the toy theatres and men in the workshop building them out of Bakelite and wood.

The text went on to say (emphases mine below):

Pollock’s speciality was in fact the sale and manufacture of Toy Theatres – otherwise known as Juvenile Drama. Traditionally the kits comprised a paperboard stage and accompanying set design with cut out characters according to the play being sold – and sometimes the likeness of popular actors of the time. The miniature production would be performed to family and friends using an abridged script and, until the introduction of the television, was one of the most popular forms of home entertainment in Europe. Toy theatre has seen a resurgence in recent years and there are numerous international toy theatre festivals throughout the Americas and Europe.

That, I did not know.

The museum has a lot of these toy theatres of varying sizes and with different scripts.

Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop

The Wikipedia page on Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop clears up much of the confusion. A summary and excerpts follow.

The original shop was in Hoxton (east London). Its proprietor was:

John Redington (1819–1876), who described himself as a “Printer, Bookbinder and Stationer; Tobacconist; and Dealer in miscellaneous articles” …

The premises were located at 73 Hoxton Street. In 1851, Redington opened a theatrical print warehouse there:

Redington was an agent for the toy theatre publisher John Kilby Green, and when Green died in 1860 Redington bought up his engraved copper plates. Redington ran the Hoxton Street business until his death in 1876, following which his widow, youngest son William, and daughter Eliza carried on with the business; but soon only Eliza Redington was left to run the print business.[2]

In 1877, Eliza Redington married Benjamin Pollock. The couple ran the shop together. They also had eight children — four boys and four girls.

Pollock was still using Green’s and Redington’s plates and theatre sheets, although:

with the imprint changed to ‘B. Pollock’.[5]

The shop was in an excellent location. The Britannia Theatre was across the street.

Despite that, Pollock wasn’t exactly making a fortune. In the 1880s, he began making toy theatres:

or the ‘juvenile drama’ as it was called at the time, selling toy theatre drops and characters from contemporary dramas for “a penny plain, twopence coloured”. Pollock generally republished older plays by using existing plates, simply changing the names of the actors. His version of Cinderella, for example, which could be bought from Pollock in the 1880s, used plates from 1844.[6]

Pollock’s business was not a success as tastes in the 1880s changed towards magic lantern shows and other innovations

Magic lanterns were early slide shows. The museum has a collection of these.

Robert Louis Stevenson

One day in 1884, Robert Louis Stevenson paid Pollock a visit at his shop. Stevenson’s subsequent essay about his visit proved to be a boon for Pollock’s business.

A considered article from 2009 about that visit appears on Spitalfields Life, ‘Benjamin Pollock, a penny plain, tuppence coloured’.

It says that Stevenson was an only child who enjoyed juvenile drama — toy theatres — at home growing up. He was also aware that as toy theatre manufacturers died and others inherited their materials, the names also changed:

the theatres of his childhood that he purchased in a shop on Leith Walk in Edinburgh were produced by Skelt’s Juvenile Drama and the names on the printing plates were altered with successive owners, “This national monument, after changing its name to Park’s, Webb’s, Reddington’s and last of all to Pollock’s, has now become, for the most part, a memory”, he wrote.

Assembling the theatres was more fun than putting on the play:

… even Stevenson admitted “The purchase and the first half hour at home, that was the summit.” As a child, I think the making of them was the greater part of the pleasure, cutting out the figures and glueing it all together. “I cannot deny the joy that attended the illumination, nor can I quite forget that child, who forgoing pleasure, stoops to tuppence coloured.” Stevenson wrote.

Pollock’s in the 20th century

Wikipedia says that the First World War altered Pollock’s intended line of succession, as his son William died in active duty. Pollock’s daughter Louise helped her father run the business.

One year before he died:

The theatre historian and writer George Speaight was first associated with Pollock’s when he gave a toy theatre performance of The Corsican Brothers at The George Inn in Southwark for Pollock’s 80th birthday in 1936. Speaight was already gaining a reputation for his juvenile drama performances using characters and settings obtained from Pollock’s.[10]

Pollock died in 1937. The Spitalfields Life article says:

toy theatres had become an anachronism and the business was in terminal decline. Yet such was the celebrity that Stevenson had brought, Benjamin Pollock received the unique accolade for a Hoxton shopkeeper of an obituary in the Times.

After Pollock’s death, Louise continued with the business, assisted by her sister Selina. In 1944, they sold the business. Shortly afterwards:

the building was destroyed by an enemy bomb.

Today, a plaque is on a brick post outside of the Hoxton Street location. Spitalfields Life has a photo. The site has council flats on it now.

Wikipedia says that, before the bomb hit, bookseller Alan Keen had bought the shop’s stock from Louise and Selina. Keen ran his business in the Adelphi Building just off The Strand — theatre district — and called it Benjamin Pollock Limited.

In 1946, Keen appointed the aforementioned George Speaight as shop manager. Speaight was associated with the shop — and, later, the museum — for the rest of his life.

Keen popularised his toy theatres by using classic films of the postwar years and their famous stars:

Keen modernised the stock to appeal to a contemporary audience with a toy theatre version of the 1948 Laurence Olivier film of Hamlet devised by Speaight[13] among other innovations. A supporter of the shop at this time was the actor Ralph Richardson, who wrote introductions to the plays.[9]

Unfortunately, nothing could return toy theatres to their previous success. In 1950, Keen had to move the premises to Little Russell Street in Bloomsbury. The following year, Benjamin Pollock Limited went into receivership.

In 1955, a BBC journalist, Marguerite Fawdry, was looking for wire character slides for her son’s toy theatre. She ended up buying not only the stock but also the business. She rented a shop at 44 Monmouth Street — in Seven Dials near Holborn (quite a smart street of boutiques and restaurants these days). In 1956, she opened Pollock’s Toy Museum in part of the shop. In 1957, she purchased the plates from Skelt’s, as George Skelt had recently died. Robert Louis Stevenson had Skelt toy theatres as a child, so this was an important acquisition for the company.

In 1969, the rent in Monmouth Street was too high for the business to survive. Fawdry moved Pollock’s to 1 Scala Street near Goodge Street Station.

In 1980, Fawdry maintained the museum in Scala Street and moved the business to the newly renovated Covent Garden Piazza.

In 1988, Fawdry sold the business to brothers Christopher and Peter Baldwin. Peter Baldwin had a collection of toy theatres and was best known for his role as Derek Walton in the long-running evening soap opera, Coronation Street. He had also managed the shop between acting jobs. A lady by the name of Louise Heard was working in the shop at this time. She, too, would play a role in developing the business.

In 2008, Christopher Baldwin retired. Louise Heard became co-owner along with Peter Baldwin. In 2010, the two opened a second Pollock’s Toy Shop at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.

In 2015, Peter Baldwin died. Louise Heard continues to run both shops. Wikipedia tells us:

Today the shop produces its own range of toy theatres by contemporary artists such as Kate Baylay and Clive Hicks-Jenkins[19] which have been displayed at Liberty, Fortnum & Mason and the Royal Opera House. It sells reproduction and original toy theatres from around the world in addition to books, puppets, music boxes and other traditional toys.[9]

The museum and trust

Marguerite Fawdry’s grandson Eddy Fawdry currently runs the museum.

There is a Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust which helped to populate the inventory at the museum. They are no longer interested in receiving toy donations, only stories. Their main web page also states:

The trust’s collection remains there, although we have been prevented from having free use of it for the benefit of the public, as our trust deed requires us to do.

However, the museum’s contact page states:

Please note that if you come across a site calling itself Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust, this is not the museum, please ignore it.

The Trust are no longer connected to the museum but continue as a sort of strange purpose less entity!

The Pollock’s Toy Museum experience

I will never forget going to Pollock’s Toy Museum.

First, some practical information.

Getting there

By Tube, alight at Goodge Street Station.

When you exit the station at street level, take a left. At the corner, take another left. When you get to the next corner, take another left. That’s three lefts in total. The museum is at the end of the first block on the opposite side. You cannot miss its colourful exterior!

Admission and opening times

The museum is closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

If you want to go this weekend, it will have to be Saturday. But, don’t worry, it is likely to be quiet.

Their Contact page has more details on opening hours and admission prices.

Normal admission is £7 per person, with discounts for seniors and children. Credit cards accepted.

Other notes

There is no tour guide or attendant. Once you pay, you’re on your own.

The museum is in two old adjoining buildings — one from the 1780s and the other from the 1880s — with narrow staircases, which isn’t good for anyone with mobility issues.

The museum’s content is also not recommended for young children:

We recommend it for slightly older children and adults of all ages.

Nor would I recommend it to anyone who is triggered by weird looking toys. Seriously, anyone falling into that category will have nightmares.

It will take between 90 minutes and two hours to complete the museum in full. By that, I mean reading all the brief typewritten notes with the exhibits.

There are chairs in some rooms for those who need to sit down.

There is a restroom near the reception area.

Admission

We had a rather eccentric thirtysomething man at the entrance.

There were three of us and he gave us only one pamphlet to the museum.

My friends, who paid for me (thank you!), asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to give us two more pamphlets?’

He paused, looked at us and grudgingly gave us two more.

He had no personality at all, and I think he had a ‘problem’ of sorts. It’s a charitable act giving people like him a job.

The same went for the young woman who had taken his place by the time we left. I don’t think she could feasibly work anywhere else, either.

My friends said ‘Goodbye!’ on the way out and she just stared at us. Finally, she muttered ‘Goodbye’.

The pamphlet

The pamphlet is really helpful in guiding you from room to room.

Of course, they cannot list every type of exhibit, but the text only gives you a good summary of what you’re going to see.

That said, look carefully as you are going around, because there are some unmentioned gems on the walls and in the display cases.

Touring the museum

Everything is chocka with exhibits.

The first little room before the first staircase has mostly American toys from the 19th and early 20th centuries. All are described, including the provenance of the metal of the money boxes.

The first staircase shows that toys weren’t meant to be sources of fun and jollity. There are a number of 19th century — maybe slightly older — education aids for young children, who were expected to learn, not play. These large boards have pictures on them with a variety of small squares with aphorisms and other short items to memorise. The one I recall most vividly — and not mentioned in the pamphlet — is an Italian board depicting a schoolroom scene. A very comely schoolmistress is sitting behind a desk. A long switch is next to her. A little boy is sobbing his eyes out. The other children are quietly doing their schoolwork. Some of these boards depict scientific concepts children were meant to learn. I felt rather stupid looking at them. I’m not sure I learned those until a later stage at primary school.

If you pause on the landing and look opposite, you’ll see — if I remember rightly — Buzz Lightyear. That’s the most modern toy on display.

Things got more normal in the first room on the first floorthe boys’ den. There are Dinky toys (cars, delivery vehicles), train sets and tin soldiers. There are also a number of futuristic toys from the postwar era. Near the window are 19th century optical toys.

Going up the stairs to the second floor, you’ll see early board games as well as some modern ones. There are also some boys’ comic books that are at least a century old and folk toys from the Subcontinent.

The main room on the second floor is devoted to toy theatres, many of them from Pollock’s. You can also see a photo of Pollock there.

By the time you’re on the third floor, you’ve moved from the 1880s building into the one dating from the 1780s. The first room is devoted to dolls. You can see why they were out of the reach of most little girls two centuries ago. These are quite exquisite — and were very expensive. Don’t miss the 4,000 year old toy mouse from the banks of the Nile!

The next room has toy soldiers and teddy bears interspersed with a grand collection of dolls houses. I did not know that the late Victorians and Edwardians thought that little boys should have a masculine equivalent of a doll to comfort them; that’s where the idea of the teddy bear originated. The dolls houses are fascinating, even for men. One English father built his daughter a replica of the family home, complete with vehicles in the drive. The windows on the house open, and everything is exactly as it was in real life. She must have loved that.

The next room has more dolls from the first part of the 20th century. One of these is a black doll that belonged to a London girl who was from the West Indies. It’s got a great family story associated with it, the finer details of which I cannot remember well enough. Be sure to check it out.

There are also tea sets, prams, farm carts and more.

Again, nearly every room has an international collection, so it’s worthwhile looking at everything. The staircase leading down to the gift shop has a lot of toys from Africa and China.

The gift shop is okay, nothing to write home about.

The restroom is on the way out, just past the gift shop. It’s nice and clean.

Any visitor or Londoner who hasn’t visited Pollock’s Toy Museum should certainly consider adding it to their list of activities for a day out.

I want to go again. I think I’ll treat my English friend to an afternoon out.

For more information and photos, see TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews. That said, I disagree with everyone who says it needs updating. Egads. It most certainly does not! This is about the history of toys, not the latest trends. For that, head to Hamley’s, the toy shop in Regent’s Street.

Recently, my far better half and I had dinner at Villandry in Great Portland Street.

This central London restaurant is conveniently located near Great Portland Street Tube station.

With a Bank Holiday (three-day) weekend coming up, it is worth mentioning to those who are looking for a great lunch or dinner in town.

Overview

There are three Villandry restaurants at the moment: the one in Great Portland Street, Villandry St James’s and another at Bicester Village.

The restaurants use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible:

All our ingredients are ethically sourced and, wherever possible, local to London. Our meat comes from The Rare Breed Company and our fish comes from the Cornish coastline. We use free-range eggs and organic milks. Our sourdough organic bread is from Astons Bakery.

Although Villandry’s history blurb says that the first restaurant opened 20 years ago in Marylebone, I remember a Villandry café there in the early 1990s that was open only at lunch. My then-boss used to go there because it was close to the office where we worked. I left there in 1993. I recall that a Frenchwoman opened it. Menu items included pastries and high-end sandwiches. My boss liked it because it was one of the first cafés to prohibit smoking on the premises. That explains why I never went.

So, I do not know how to reconcile that part of Villandry’s history with the following (click on From the Business in the right hand column), other than to say that perhaps the current owner bought the business from the Frenchwoman:

Established in 2011.

Villandry’s first restaurant opened in Marylebone 20 years ago. Since then it has stepped away from the strictly French, dark wooded format, and has created light, modern Mediterranean inspired restaurants. The last 3 years of new ownership have been devotedly spent working on improving and evolving Villandry’s offering. We offer a light flexible all day dining menu at reasonable prices and our food is predominantly local and seasonal. Currently we have three Grand Cafés and several more are planned for Central London.

The Marylebone location closed and re-opened in Great Portland Street several years ago.

Villandry Great Portland Street serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and weekend brunch. (All include healthy options.)

Two types of dinner menu are available, based on whether you have booked a table for the café or the restaurant. The same holds true for desserts (café, restaurant).

Menus are seasonal.

Pastries and cakes are still very much part of Villandry’s identity. If you are lucky enough, you can buy some to take home. They were already sold out when we went.

To get a better idea of Villandry’s restaurants and atmosphere, check out their Twitter feed.

Reasonably priced wine list

Incredibly, especially for central London, Villandry Great Portland Street has a remarkably reasonably priced wine — and cocktail — list.

Our bottle — ordered from the ‘From the Cellar — Once it’s gone, it’s gone’ page (8) — of Chateau Pey La Tour 2014 Réserve du Château Bordeaux Supérieur (Vignobles Dourthe) was £45. It’s no longer on the list, because we bought the last bottle.

Incidentally, we liked it so much, we ordered a case from a wine merchant the next day!

Villandry charged only a three-times mark-up on that bottle. Many London restaurants put a four- to five-times mark-up on wine, which is why SpouseMouse checks the wine list before we book anywhere in town. Restaurateurs make up for low food prices with high prices on wine.

I prefer the Great Portland Street wine list to that of their St James’s location, although the latter has better descriptions.

Our dinner

We booked in the restaurant and enjoyed dishes from the Winter menu. Depending on when you read this, that might have changed.

Both of us started with squid, both reasonably priced at £9 each.

SpouseMouse enjoyed the Salt and Pepper Squid, which was lightly floured, then deep fried and coated with the two seasonings. The tartare sauce was excellent and appeared to be home-made.

I plumped for the Chilli Squid with harissa mayonnaise which was a knockout. That was prepared similarly to the other squid dish but dusted with hot spices, which the mayonnaise complemented perfectly.

In fact, the harissa mayonnaise was so good, our waiter offered to bring me more with the ‘pail’ of sweet potato fries with my main course.

Now on to the main courses, both classically French in preparation.

SpouseMouse enjoyed the roast breast of Guinea fowl with coq au vin garnish and creamed potatoes, although the meat was just bordering on overdone.

I wanted fish and, rather than the sea bass, had the grilled lemon sole meunière, which came with buttered baby new potatoes. The two of us shared those.

The sweet potato fries were superb and came coated with plenty of cracked salt and pepper. The harissa mayonnaise complemented them perfectly.

The sole meunière was perfectly done in the traditional manner: lightly coated in flour and pan fried in beurre noisette (brown butter). I’m still thinking about it. One thing to note is that it arrives at table on the bone, but comes off easily. Be sure to turn the fish over to get to the meat on the other side. I was not asked whether I would like it off the bone but imagine that, if one asked nicely, the waiter would honour such a request.

Both of us would highly recommend our dishes, all of which were perfectly seasoned — a rarity in the current low-salt era of dining.

We did not have room for dessert.

With wine (£45), our dinner came to £126. Money well spent. We would definitely return.

Atmosphere

It was quite interesting to see how Villandry Great Portland Street uses their space.

The display counter with the baked goods and chocolate is round and sits in the café area. From there, one walks through the bar, which accommodates those going for brunch. The bar leads to another room, which is a goodly sized restaurant. Off to one side of the restaurant is an alcove with plush booths.

We would recommend booking the restaurant not only for the menu but also for the traditional linen napery.

It was nice and quiet, too. We were given a choice of two tables, which is always helpful.

Our table overlooked Bolsover Street, which has really changed since I worked near there. Wow. It was definitely worth going out for a digestif ciggy break to wander around. Particularly intriguing was the Bolsover Hotel across the street. There’s so much going on in what used to be a rather sedate thoroughfare.

It’s also worth mentioning that the loos, located downstairs, are sparkling clean.

See TripAdvisor’s reviews for more information.

Service

We arrived on time and were welcomed by name, which added a pleasant touch.

Our junior waiter brought us menus, bread and water. There was no problem in asking for tap water.

Then there was a bit of a wait, but we noticed that the maître d’ was also delivering food.

After he took our order, things went at an improved pace and he took the time to talk about the wine, bring me harissa mayonnaise and enquired as to whether we liked our courses.

There is no need to tip as a 12.5% service charge is automatically added to the bill. I mention this, because I have read that some London restaurants have stopped this traditional practice.

Note on St James’s

Having looked at the Villandry St James’s menus and wine list, I would prefer to return to Villandry Great Portland Street for a better selection of both.

TripAdvisor’s reviews have more information.

Final notes

You can book a table directly through Villandry, which is what we did. It might be better than booking through a third-party site or app. Also, if there is an option to choose either the café or the restaurant, we would recommend the latter.

Incidentally, the wait staff wear traditional clothes and our maître d’ wore a jacket and tie.

Even though there is no dress code and people were very casually dressed in the café, we were in business clothes. That might have got us more attentive service in the restaurant. We noticed our wine was poured more often than at the tables where the couple wore more casual clothes.

In closing: go, go, go! You’ll have a great dining experience!

I was of two minds as to whether to report on the royal wedding which took place on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

I turned off the television after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — Harry and Meghan — took their preliminary vows.

A wedding not a blessing

I wondered why they were given a full wedding ceremony rather than a church blessing, since Meghan Markle had been married previously.

However, Sky News reported that the Church of England changed the rules well over a decade ago (emphases mine below):

The Church of England agreed in 2002 that divorced people could remarry in church, with the discretion of the priest.

The duchess, a former actress:

married American film producer Trevor Engelson in 2011. They filed for divorce in 2013, citing “irreconcilable differences”.

The Most Reverend and Honourable Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, officiated at the service.

The Dean of Windsor, The Rt Revd David Conner, conducted the service and the initial vows (‘I will’), although rings were exchanged later in the service with the Archbishop of Canterbury officiating.

It was somewhat off-putting to hear the Dean’s words at the beginning, which included ‘the joy of sexual union’.

If people are getting married only to salve their consciences in that department, they’re headed down the wrong route.

There are two reasons for this.

The first is that a marriage should be a partnership of equals — the best friendship a man and a woman can ever share with God’s blessing.

The second is that no one knows what the morrow will bring. I do know of young couples who were deprived of ‘the joy of sexual union’ early in their marriages because of sudden debilitating illness or accidents.

Friendship comes first in a marriage. The Dean would have been better placed to use the old American adage:

Kissin’ don’t last, cookin’ do.

Prince Charles took the wise decision to walk his future daughter-in-law part way down the aisle:

The Duke’s aunt, Princess Diana’s sister, gave the one reading of the ceremony:

Here is Justin Welby formally joining the couple in matrimony. These video clips are excellent. No one does weddings like the Church of England (I’m so pleased to be a part of it):

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States gave an address. BT.com reported:

The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, the first black presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, gained worldwide attention with his address at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding on Saturday during which he evoked Martin Luther King and spoke of poverty and injustice.

Mr Curry, along with the gospel choir, brought a flavour of the American bride’s homeland with the speech at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

At the end of the ceremony, the happy couple left St George’s Chapel, Windsor:

Back story: Meghan’s Baptism and Confirmation

The Duchess of Sussex was baptised and confirmed privately prior to the wedding.

Sky News reported:

Prince Harry and Ms Markle announced their engagement in November. A day later Kensington Palace confirmed that Meghan, who identifies as Protestant, would be baptised and confirmed ahead of her wedding day.

Heavy had more:

According to Access, Markle has already been accepted into the Anglican faith, and Welby baptized her in a secret ceremony in March 2018.

The cake and reception

The Queen hosted the first reception:

Sir Elton John, who had sung at Princess Diana’s funeral, performed:

Thankfully, the cake was not the usual heavy fruitcake:

A filling made from Amalfi lemon curd and elderflower buttercream ties all the elements together. The cake is decorated with Swiss meringue buttercream and 150 fresh flowers, mainly British, and in season, including peonies and roses.

Then it was time for the second wedding reception:

Official wedding prayer

This is the couple’s wedding prayer from the Church of England:

But Heavy pointed out:

This stands in contrast to the previous royal wedding, between then-Prince William and Kate Middleton, who wrote their own prayer for the ceremony, as the Telegraph reported.

God our Father, we thank
you for our families; for
the love that we share and
for the joy of our marriage.
In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on
what is real and important
in life and help us to be generous with our time
and love and energy.
Strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I have prayed for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and hope that they grow together in the peace and love of Jesus Christ.

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