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Winter evenings in a new coat



Ben

I’m a creature of habit, and I also love the regular things of life when they happen.  I think you know this. That moment of turning the clocks back is as welcome today as the arrival of summer time hours when they come. I love these weeks of autumnal leaves as much as I crave the break of spring.

I love today’s extra hour. I have a friend who says you must never change the clock until the evening, and you can do something special with it. I’m afraid mine got absorbed in quite a hangover. This is becoming a bit of a repeat story isn’t it? I suppose it’s the time of year.  Last night the cause was my friends Lucy & Duncan’s massive (pre-) halloween dinner and celebration (…well, that is what you would do too if you lived in an ancient moated manor house on the edge of Salisbury, with an early Georgian Gothick facade, surrounded by ancient penumbral trees).   I worked on the house with them last year, stitching it back together after the craziest not good 1970s renovation you have ever seen.   It was wonderful to see the place alive and, literally, kicking.  Lucy and Duncan have got more energy than anyone I know, and they are also the youngest clients I suspect I will ever have.  Yes, out of the some 40 or 50 guests, I was officially the oldest person there, which actually reminds me that if you want to feel young you should hang out with people a lot younger than yourself, not the other way round.

My head was protesting this morning.  Before you worry that the blog needs to be sponsored by that excellent organisation Alcoholics Anonymous: have you ever tried shots of absinthe that formed one of the opening courses? (no, you have not). Half way through dinner a vivid green cocktail emerged at all of our places. You see?  toxic.

So I’ve had an enforced quiet day… a bite of lunch with some neighbours up the valley, a couple of friends over for a cup of tea, and in the middle of a ravaging evil head state this morning, I, um, cooked a giant lamb casserole 25 people… for a bunch of all the Poundbury boys & girls – Duchy of Cornwall people, Leon Krier the masterplanner, builders, the site foremen, and a few of architects, all of whom in a rash moment I decided to invite for supper next Thursday night. No time between now and then to do any cooking, and the evidence suggests that chopping up mushrooms is actually not a bad cure for a hangover.

The following day the Prince is coming to Poundbury to celebrate 20 years since his project began. There’s a giant ‘do’ for all the architects.  Hmm.  That could be interesting seeing as all traditional architects, as we know, are very weird indeed and there are some rivalries out there to put the Montagues and the Capulets in the shade.  What joy.

Anyway, the reason I thought I’d get everyone over is threefold. One, I didn’t feel like I quite had enough on that week, you know. Two, it’s actually kind of fun when you mix everyone up – the best times ever.  Three – on Thursday (yes, Halloween) it is precisely ten years to the day since a very tearful younger me said goodbye to New York City after five fantastic years and flew home to London. How can a decade rush by so quickly?

ALRIGHT ALRIGHT you are saying.  What about his purple dining room?  Yes, it’s new paint colour time. Just in time for winter evenings. And can I confess, I’m very happy indeed. My suggestion, if you ever get bored by your place: slap on a new colour. It’s a whole new home (the previous sentence was sponsored by the British Paint Manufacturers Association).

It was a damn good thing I took these photographs yesterday afternoon.  I couldn’t go in there today, honestly, with my sore head.

Sharp eyed readers will recognise some pictures from London. I shoved them in the back of the car knowing that the purple was going to need some painkillers.  Luckily I’ve just bought a job lot (sight unseen, and I haven’t got them yet) of a massive bunch of Piranesi engravings of all the things like diagrams of foundations of walls and that sort of stuff, the ones that no-one else wants, not a column in sight, really dull I am sure but a perfect wall filler. So that will be a nice framing job and then I can really get going.  And I am debating whether I should hang my Hone Museum above the fireplace?  They look incredible but is it too much?

The purple is insane… intense. It’s ‘Plum’ from the Patrick Baty/Paper & Paints 1960s range.

It goes pretty mental in the sunshine, and I think lunch guests may need sunglasses from now on.

Somewhere I suspect this room needs some olive green and kelly green, and some burnt orange.

I guess the big question in my life now is what colour I should paint the staircase walls in between that dining room and the orange kitchen. (Actually, that’s not really the big question in my life, but it’s still a question, I guess).

The sitting room is an altogether more restful thing, in its new coat of powdery chalky pink.  Patrick mixed that for me too, a shade right in-between his 1950s pink and Farrow & Ball’s Setting Plaster (which is a beautiful colour but was a bit too grey for me here).  Should I call it Parsonage rose I wonder?   I remember a friend worrying about the yellow sofa when I told him about my plans for a pink sitting room. Luckily, it feels very at home indeed, although it too would look beautiful in a brown corduroy or olive green silk.

Like, how on earth I got a reputation for being a cool young interior decorator (okay, perhaps I’m making that up, especially the young bit) with these pink walls and  this collection of old granny china on my mantlepiece, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps because I’m gay and wear trainers, I don’t know. Nice reflection in the mirror, huh?

Okay the best room of all is my bedroom. Yes, you’re right, not that many people get to see my bedroom.  And here, I’ve got a confessional to make.  A client of mine reminded me the other day that in my book I wrote: “bedrooms should be painted in calm shades of off-white and grey” (WHAT?)… although, to be fair, I did also admit that I was thinking of painting my bedroom in London “a dark colour so that it’s a snug cocoon at night” (it’s a bit weird quoting myself isn’t it).   Well, don’t believe everything you read in my book is all I can say. Check this out. Good bye Farrow and Ball ‘Shaded white’ it was nice knowing you; hello 4-050 from Papers & Paints. (If you’re a very loyal reader you will know this also is the colour of my kitchen walls in London).

I guess I meant it when I said back in February that I was bored of tasteful greys.  They have their place, especially in the attic, but I’m off on a new trip and I’m loving it.

It’s pouring, I mean pouring, with rain, on Sunday evening, and the wind is, to be honest, picking up, and the radio is filled with warnings of a massive storm on its way and I can’t quite work out if there really is the biggest storm coming since 1987, or if its hype because it’s an unnaturally quiet moment in the news cycle at the moment (remember, we were meant to be having a war with Syria, right now, if those inconvenient Russians hadn’t come up with a rather sensible compromise… and just think how that would be selling the papers right now).  Well, yesterday morning driving home from Bridport I had a weird premonition, really very vivid, that my giant copper beech tree was going to blow over.  Hopefully without me and my new bedroom in the way, but I always go to sleep slightly conscious that I’m in the falling line.  Secretly, don’t tell anyone, I wouldn’t mind awfully if the tree blew over. It’s incredible, and beautiful, but the garden would breathe more easily. Interesting.  Perhaps I’ll sleep in the guest bedroom at the other end of the house tonight just in case…

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