Thursday, May 27, 2010

More of the Chelsea Flower Show

Under the large Pavilion at the annual Chelsea Flower Show, you find a rainbow of color. I was drawn, of course to the tulips. Other than the Keukenhof Tulip gardens in Holland, I've never seen so many beautiful and interesting varieties of tulips in one setting.

You can't beat these!

Other displays included gladiolas,


and of course, roses.

The kind you dream about.

Did you know there were so many varieties of lavender?

Wish I could bottle the scent of the hyacinth display. I never knew they came in as many colors.

Assortment of daffodils

And I fell in love with the irises.

These brown ones in the show winning garden were interesting.

But my favorite flower of the show was this pink, almost peach, and lavender iris. 

Here's a close-up.

Not to be left out were the vegetables that were too pretty to eat!

I can't close without showing a couple of fashion icons in their "garden suits." Shoes to match, of course. The ladies were just as elegant, and absolutely posh--too many to photograph and show here, but you get the idea. Just summer evening garden party attire--guess I'll have to consider giving up the shorts and flip-flops when I'm invited to the countryside for a garden party here in England. More online at the Royal Horticulture Society's website if you're interested in seeing and learning more. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea is all 'abloom this week with the opening of the annual Chelsea Flower Show, a gardening show held every year in the month of May on the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital, located around the corner from our house. It is considered by many to be the most famous gardening event in the world, and each year, it kicks off the London summer social season. We were fortunate enough to be invited to the Gala Preview and Dinner on Monday night, the eve of the opening of the show. After the queen and her husband and others in the royal family were shown the grounds, we were escorted in for the night. As you might imagine, 100 pictures later--all discreetly taken with my point and shoot camera, we enjoyed a lovely dinner with our host group and called it a night. Unfortunately, it's hard to act "posh" and lug a big Nikon around your neck. Choosing the pictures to share was quite a task, but here we go. Hang on...

One of the highlights of the event would be the show gardens that are put together by different organizations. Gold, silver and bronze awards are announced for the winners. I loved the L'Occitane Garden based on the landscape of Provence in France.

Water elements were often featured in the gardens.

Unique this year was The Places of Change Garden, a part of the Eden Project, and this year 400 homeless people and 100 prisoners from across England were involved in growing, planting and building of the garden.

Inside the Pavilion was an explosion of color, as every color and species of flower were on display.

It was almost more than you could take in.

Robed in color.

Also on the grounds were an assortment of garden furnishings, equipment, accessories and this petite "conservatory" which every good English country house should have. I'm thinking about taking one of these back to the States--that would just about take up my whole back yard and lawn mowing wouldn't be an issue anymore. How can Mike say no to that?

Stay tuned--more to come tomorrow....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Royal Invitation to Hampton Court

Our second "royal" invitation this week was for dinner at the 16th century Hampton Court.

Although some came by coach, our mode of transportation to Henry VIII's palace was by car. Just a short drive outside the city, we reached Hampton Court just shy of an hour, a much quicker trip than the boat ride up the Thames River that Henry VIII would take from Whitehall to Hampton when he headed to his palace.

Knights stood nearby ready to do our bidding, along with jesters and musicians.

After a lovely hour of drinks and appetizers in the courtyard, dinner was held in the Great Hall, built in 1532, and richly decorated with pendants, royal arms, stained glass windows and a hammer-beam roof.

Many very important guests were there, including King Henry VIII himself with his wife Katherine Parr, and

Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor to Henry VII. But probably the biggest celebrities of the night were the after dinner entertainment.

Where were you in the 80's when these guys were "Hungry Like the Wolf?" That's right, an up close and personal concert by Duran, Duran. And close as we were to the band, we weren't the ones you'll see dancing at their feet. Well, maybe tapping our toes and swaying a bit, but definitely not dancing at their feet! Here's a peek....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dinner at Kensington Palace

Finally back in London, after being blocked out last month due to the ca-t"ash"-tro-phe, I'm back and enjoying the beautiful spring weather that London is blessing us with this week. We started our visit this time with a couple of really exciting events hosted by an investors' company who is holding a conference here in the city. The first night we were invited to dinner at Kensington Palace, a royal residence which has been inhabited through they years by many monarchs, and more recently by Charles and Diana with their sons.

We were treated to a royal welcome and toured the current exhibit, called The Enchanted Palace.

Passing through some of the royal gardens,

we made our way to the pre-dinner reception

with many delicious options for nibbling.

An elegant dinner was hosted in the nearby Orangery,

an adjacent 18th century structure which served as a greenhouse to hold the citrus trees during the winter. The food and the decor were equally lovely.

The surprise treat of this evening was a performance of Bond, an Australian/British group, which someone in our group compared to a classical string quartet with the style of Dallas cowboy cheerleaders. Definitely a lot of leather, spandex, sequins and stilettos. They are known as the best selling string quartet of all times, with an highly entertaining style.  Their crossover classical/pop sound is very popular, and I quite enjoyed their performance. The men in the group especially appreciated their "musical giftedness." Listen to a bit and let me know what you think!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Starlet on the loose

Be forewarned. There's a 2 year old starlet running around Houston with quite an attitude.

She has her own bodyguards....

and a personal driver at her beckon call.

This diva recently starred in a feature movie cast as an office assistant. Here's the trailer, but remember I warned you. Watch to the end--it's really gone to her head!

Click once and then once again to see it full screen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Let's Hear it for Great-grandmothers!

First there was Paul Potts, then Susan Boyle, and now there is Janey Cutler, the latest singing sensation on Britain's Got Talent.  I think you'll enjoy her recent debut on the show. Let's hear it for great-grandmothers! 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

See You After the Duration

Recently, the women of the American Women's Club in London were fortunate to have as a speaker, Michael Henderson, the author of See You After The Duration. He shared with us the details of a part of British history that was new to me. A little background information first. As Britain stood on the brink of invasion by the Germans in WWII, almost 2 million children were evacuated from several large cities, primarily London, along with 100,000 teachers as their guardians, to the countryside to live in order to avoid the danger of bombings. The endeavor was called Operation Pied Piper. At the government's encouragement, parents, for the most part, allowed their children to board the trains to their new temporary homes while they stayed home and worked to support the war efforts. None of them knew at which point they would be reunited.

Mr. Henderson tells another side of the story in his book. He, along with 14,000 other British children were actually sent overseas in the summer of 1940 to foreign locations, including America, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia as the fear of a German invasion evolved. At the age of 8, along with his brother George, aged 6, the two of them were among 3,000 children who were transported to the US to live with American families who welcomed them into their homes. 

Photo from See You After the Duration

All summer long, children were moved to other countries.  Michael and his brother were transported across the submarine infested waters in an ocean liner, called the Duchess of York, accompanied by a battleship and 5 destroyers. The risk was significant; indeed 77 children died on another occasion in the sinking of The City of Benares. The trip for the boys, however, was exciting--an adventure of sorts, and their new life in Milton, near Boston, introduced them to American ways and hospitality. Little did they know when they told their parents good bye and told them, "See you after the duration," that it would be 5 years later before they would be returned home safely on an air carrier.

There is so much more to the story that I think you would enjoy knowing--the human side of the facts: the parents' fears, the children's emotions, and the generosity of Americans who were looking to give the kids a safe haven from danger. More of the story can be found of course, in Mr. Henderson's book See You After the Duration or his website with short articles written by Michael himself. A fascinating slice of life in perilous times.