Although I grew up in London and lived there for the best part of twenty years, went to school there for most of my teens and worked there another ten years at least, I have a concerning admission to make (at least to any fellow Londoners on this list): I had never been to Regents Park. This means that I have never taken a pedalo on the pond, never fed the ducks, never attended the Central London Mosque, never been to Primrose Hill, never gone anywhere near London Zoo (actually this was deliberate), never attended the Open Air Theatre, never sat by the bandstand, never inspected the 30,000 roses in the Queen Mary Rose Garden and never attended a conference at Regents College on methodologies in business research. I have now done the last two of these activities. I only spent minimal time at the conference, preferring instead to capitalise on the glorious coincidence of meeting a dear old friend (as opposed to a old dear friend) and of having lunch with her instead of attending part of the afternoon session. I spent that evening in the august company of my brother Clive and the Lord Mayor of London (the latter with his Lady Wife) at a once-in-a-lifetime old school dinner at the Mansion House. Alli and the girls arrived late on the Friday evening and they went shopping on the morrow in Oxford Street while Gwen and I went to Madame Tussauds. I have always remembered the awesome presentation on the solar system at the London Planetarium from my first visit when I was seven years old but this was discontinued just recently; its place taken by a a deranged clown act and a vacuous cartoon film show about Martians visiting the Earth to gape at celebrities. Afterwards, Gwen and I walked around the park, smelt some of the 400 varieties of roses and watched people feeding the birds. Apart from ducks, drakes, Canadian geese, swans and moorhens, there is also a very large and unexpected colony of storks who nest in ungainly fashion in the trees around the lake.
After our brief London experience, we drove to Hintlesham Hall, near Ipswich in Suffolk, to celebrate the 21st birthday party of Clive and Julia’s youngest daughter Isabella. It was a sumptuous evening in a spectacular country house setting, and it was a great pleasure to see the family and assorted friends. Furthermore, Sunday morning hangovers can rarely be endured more pleasantly than by sitting on a croquet lawn in the shade at the back of the house, being served long drinks and noting that the headaches of certain other Stanbrooks seemed a lot worse than mine. After we had driven back to Stansted in the late afternoon I dropped the girls at the airport and advised them to check in without waiting for me as I had to return the hired car. When I got to the check-in desk later I was congratulating myself on how smoothly the whole weekend had gone, given all the things about it that could have gone wrong. Then the Easyjet check-in girl looked up at me with my passport in her hand and told me that I could not be allowed onto the plane because there was a possibility that the photograph in my passport had been tampered with: the photograph was coming away from the page. She demonstrated this by tugging at it so that it started to come away even more. I had no choice after some unsuccessful remonstration than to trudge away from the desk and take a train back into London. It was true that my passport had become very dog-eared, having been located too close to my armpit or in a back trouser pocket on many a flustered and frantic series of perspiring journeys
Travel dominated the month as I moved from Basel to Brazil to Brussels and from London to Washington DC in quick succession. I was in Sao Paulo for a week on business, and was invited to a most enjoyable samba party over the weekend. This followed my attendance at a two-day course in molecular biology in Zurich. It was an interesting course and it succeeded in awaking my long-dormant interest in biology, a subject I last studied, if that is the right word, when I was 12.
Jessie, who has had her friends Asja and Grace over for a few days, helped to organize a major party for her school-friends in Basel. She organized almost everything about it, from the booking of the hall to the hiring of the glasses and the setting of the dress code: “prep”. It was a great success although for a time the deposit that the girls had left against breakages was under threat after an allegation that a table had been broken by the revellers. It turned out that the unscrupulous owner of the venue had assumed that they were spoilt rich kids who didn’t check details. I am still recovering from this deflected calumny. Jessie and Ella have been breaking academic records at school and have achieved spectacular success in their end of term reports and exams, with Jessie being awarded the coveted honour roll for high achievement. She also beat some of her very musical male friends in music, much to her pleasure, and Ella also achieved a record overall in the averaged scores of 6.13 out of 7. There was also a concert at the school featuring Jessie on the cornet, playing in a big band and in a brass ensemble. We continue to hunt for a suitable house in the locality. We lost one house we wanted (can’t think where we put it) but at least now I know how to move fast when we see something we want.
Yours on the break,
Sumptuous Storks Ensemble