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In a New York State of Mind…



Ben

It’s a strange thing about time, isn’t it? Ask me what I was doing last Thursday week and frankly I’ve got no idea.  Ask me what I was doing 19 years ago and the memory is crystal clear.

19 years ago, almost to this week, I’d decided I was about to move to New York but I didn’t yet know how. I’d been at the wonderful wedding, of my friends Titus and Jemima – an amazing, emotional day – when I realised, that evening, that however good things were, for me, they needed shaking up.  (Maybe, just maybe, a realisation that it would be easier to live the life of a young gay man in New York city than in a tiny village on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, who knows?).  A few weeks later, and I’d managed to get myself an interview for a firm of architects in Greenwich Village. In August, they were in London and gave me an interview – and a job. So life happens. A few months later my visa came through and on Valentine’s Day 1999 I moved to the city that became home for the next five years.

Life, then, moves in stages, and that was a great stage; and it’s a strange realisation that this was nearly 20 years ago, when it seems like yesterday. So much and so little have changed. Charlie and I had a wonderful weekend in New York last weekend,. I NEARLY got around to blogging immediately on our return, but life just ever so slightly got in the way. So here we are, a few days late, and maybe more reflective.

I always find this beautiful, happy, sad place compelling, almost hypnotic from the moment your plane circles to land and you spot the mythical towers and skyscrapers on the distant, hazy skyline. Then within a moment you find yourself blinking in the reality of crazy, noisy New York. And almost certainly, every time I first arrive, I head like a homing pigeon to my old neighbourhood Greenwich Village, where it really feels like nothing has changed at all.

A first lovely evening, with our friends Valentina, and Stephen and John.  Walking over to the East village – Washington Square looking perfect in the warm heat of the summers evening.

The next morning, after breakfast in Nolita, Charlie and I headed into Chinatown, early.

A quick walk to the South Street Seaport.

And then we headed uptown, to catch a train to Connecticut to see Frances Palmer in her beautiful garden.

The dahlia garden was looking impeccable, hinting of the richness to come.

Charlie and Frances. Dungarees are in, if you didn’t know.  (So is blonde hair).

Frances’s beautiful studio, serene as always.

We arrived back at Grand Central after a wonderful day and walked down to the village for dinner.

On Saturday morning we were up early.  We peeked into the La Guardia Corner Garden, close to heaven in early June.

Through Greenwich Village, waking.

Breakfast at Buvette with Val, and then to the 25th Street Flea Market. Heaven.

Charlie bought these 19th century nasturtium seeds, still in their packet.

Back down to Union Square for the Greenmarket.

And a wander around John Derian’s fabulous stores, happy to have caught up a couple of nights earlier.

New York was her usual crazy self…

And her usual serene self.  Everything changes, nothing changes.

Lunch at the Odeon, for old times’ sake. One of my all-time favourites.

Saturday evening in Brooklyn Heights for dinner with our friends Austin and Spenny.

A tiny corner of their apartment:

History doesn’t relate quite where we all went and got up to on Saturday night, or should I say Sunday morning, but the rest of the day was a happily contented wipe out. New York best.

On Monday we started early with a walk down the High Line.

Zaha:

Vistas:

Beautiful planting, maturing so well:

Crazy New York:

We zoomed uptown to the Frick, to find it closed, but the garden was tantalising through the railings:

So, to the Met, so crowded and crazy that we turned on our heels, but the domes of the entrance hall were serene and silent:

back through Central Park, so beautiful:

Down through Soho….

To Grand Banks, for a perfect last lunch in the sun:

A walk around downtown…

Through the concrete canyons:

And finally back to the East Village and a last drink before supper with Valentina.

And so we drifted back to England and to high summer in Dorset,

A world away from beautiful, crazy, mad New York, so near and yet so far away, which I miss so much, but so happy to be back when we can.

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