Saturday 30 July 2011

To Oxford... see the Macedonian treasures currently on view at the Ashmolean. Glorious, glorious things: delicate golden jewellery; beautiful (and surprisingly colourful) painted jars for scented oils; grave goods; and statues; and ornaments; and military artefacts; wall paintings; silver cups and jugs;exquisitely carved ivory...Wonderful! Pleasantly  un-crowded, and sensibly presented  - presumably since it was aimed at people who take an intelligent interest, rather than at the grockles who gawp uncomprehendingly, as their tele-guides drone away in the background, and who these days seem to gum up every exhibition of any note in Central London (British Museum and National Gallery, take note!)
It was striking, though, that  there are clear stylistic and cultural similarities between these treasures and etruscan remains from the same period - and yet, nowhere have I ever seen any reference to a connection of any kind between the two. Even stranger, given that the Macedonians  were little connected with the wider world until quite late on. Odd. I wonder what the reaction would be of an etruscan specialist to this particular collection...

And then, lunch. On the terrace on the Ashmolean's roof, with a splendid view from behind the bum-end of the rooftop statuary (which, presumably, the original architect had never intended to be on general view). Practically a Zuleika Dobson moment. The place was great; the food less so.  In homage to Alexander, they were offering a selection of greek mezze in addition to their normal fare, and we decided - almost nostagically - to try it. Not a particularly wise move, as we discovered that they weren't so much operating a kitchen as an unpacking operation, and everything that appeared at table could quite credibly have come from a box, packet or tin, probably opened ten minutes earlier and almost certainly to be found in any M&S Food Hall. Oh well. The cheese plate (English) was excellent, though, and was served with a bunch of red grapes which had been macerated (it turned out) in cold mulled wine, and which were both intriguing and delicious. (Note to self: sometimes, it does pay to sample the garnish, rather than merely to leave it sitting dispiritedly at the side of the plate).

Oxford was heaving. Horribly so. And  we took refuge for what remained of the afternoon in the Botanic Garden. Beautiful, calm, and enviably well-tended. Botanic gardens can be dangerous places, and a casual visit several months ago to the one in Amsterdam resulted in my having a couple of hundred Pachysandra Terminalis and Ajuga Reptans  to plant, right in the middle of blisteringly hot July - when in fact all any sensible gardener in Tuscany wants to do is to take refuge, and hope that things actually make it through until the weather cools down again. Oxford BG was no exception, and we came away with a cell-phone full of plant images and the names of about fifteen new 'possibles' to research -  but not before the autumn, at the earliest!

This afternoon, we're off to a screening of 'The Valley of the Bees' at The National Gallery, and then tomorrow it's back on the bus (metaphorically speaking) to Pisa - to the four-footeds and, inevitably, to the watering...

Tonight's Dinner

Raie au beurre noire, with new potatoes

Raspberry Souffl├ęs  (the link is for strawberries, but just substitute)