Art – A Collector

My first passion is Art and within that predominately paintings and sculpture.  Some say I have eclectic taste (or do they mean, none at all!)  I know what I like and that is largely what we have collected and essentially what we showed in the gallery.  Basically though, I am a collector at heart and alongside our main interest there are small cameo collections of things that have been acquired during a specific period or location.  We have a number of corner cupboards, various clocks, a selection of Zimbabwe stone carvings, a group of west African carvings in wood, figures in bronze, I could go on……

Good Food and wine

I’m passionate about good food and wine, I stress the word good because I don’t necessarily mean expensive Michelin starred establishments though neither would I exclude them.  My feeling is that each meal is an opportunity to enjoy good food that is full of flavour and goodness, we have a lot of these at home, but eating out is so much more expensive (however, whenever) and what a waste if you just get something that is adequate to keep body and soul together, but not a real pleasure.  Christine is so much better than me, if we decide to just have a sandwich for lunch, if I make it, is utilitarian, if she makes it she finds all sorts of things to put in it, the result is a feast between pieces of bread.

Wine is more difficult, again the expense issue ( by a factor of 3 vs the cost of bottles in my cellar)  I’m not really interested in the famous wines, I look for unmarketed wine but that is really good.  Just like getting to know the artist – seeing his/her studio I like to get to know the owner of the vineyard, to understand what makes him tick.  Generally we have always talked to whoever buys the wine for the restaurant, they will know who are the best in the area, and even guide you to individual years sometimes, everyone has their favourites and its definitely not just the food.  The food has to be to standard but the ambiance is important, as are the staff.  A list of favourites does vary, but in my case, not very much.  In London, Moro in Exmouth Market and Café Anglais in Whiteleys are our favourites.  Although the thought of eating in a shopping centre is an anathema for me – so I generally use the different entrance!

February 2012 Desert at Michael Caines Restaurant, Exeter.  See our Blog of recent visit to West Cornwall


This passion is more about getting to know places rather than the travelling itself.  In principle we have a list of places we’d like to visit but the problem is its growing.

Actually for us travel and food are fairly closely linked.  For instance my absolute favourite eating place in Barcelona is Cal Pep, and I have different alternatives as backups depending on the season.  In Paris, Chez Georges for traditional, Bofinger and Train Bleu for Brasseries and Cautremente Bistro.  France (excluding Paris) Beau Rivage Condrieu (on the Rhone)

I also have a theory , all you need is to find a reason for going somewhere.  Doesn’t matter what it is , then when you go to the new place, things happen.  We have a recommendation for wine, so we set out to find it, then get a local recommendation for restaurant or whatever.

One example that is happening right now: Nicholas Lander (FT weekend Magazine) wrote about a restaurant with rooms on one of the smaller Aran Islands (population 200) off the west coast of Ireland.  I just happened to have had a recommendation of an artist form Donegal – (bit further north of Aran) , I think its about time we had another visit to Ireland.

April 2011 – Burgh Island, South Devon      June 2011 – San Sebastian, Bilbao and Rioja  


I could have spent a lot of money over the years on items purchased solely because the design appealed to me, and I have a list in my head of ‘ ones that got away’.  The trouble always seemed to be that I had limited funds and at the time a particular painting or piece of sculpture won the day!

There are one or two pieces which did materialise.  I have a hanging chair purchased in the 70’s in my office that hung in our ‘red room’ when we were in Manchester.  There was also a Gaudi-esque chair in a not particularly remarkable furniture shop in Barcelona that we used to frequent.  I have been back several times in a fruitless search for the shop and the chair – to no avail.

Another solution I use is to produce a sketch of something that really grabs me (especially if it’s a feature/ a part of something that I can’t possibly purchase even if I had the funds)  The sketch may not be even decipherable by others – but it is sufficient to unlock my filing system in the brain so that I can recall the object completely.  The banisters in stainless steel down to the lower galleries is a case in point – the inspiration was something I saw 10 years previously in Barcelona.  My office is a clutter of objects, sketches, paintings all with memories attached.

If I was to try to indicate some of the people that inspire me names like Lalique, Archibold Knox, Rene Mackintosh,.  But once again it is almost impossible to separate one passion for another, they are all interlinked.  The ‘Gaudi’ chair takes me straight to the beautifully carved screens in Casa Calvet, the Catalan Restaurant in Calle Casp just off Plaza Catalinya in Barcelona.