A perfect day in the garden.

I spent the entire day in the garden, comfortably installed in a chair, looking at what was in front of me, and wasn’t bored a single moment. He must really be into roses, you might think, and partially you’re right, but truth be told, I had my iPhone with me, initially to take some more shots of the garden in bloom, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had Netflix on it, now an Obama approved entertainment device, and as I felt like something British, I started the original version of House of Cards, after I had made tea of course, as I can’t watch anything British without the most British beverage there is, tea. Over Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend—royalty, by the way, is quite British, too— I took a crash course in advanced manipulation and found Ian Richardson’s Francis Urquhart much more interesting a character than Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, you may replace “interesting” by other adjectives such as vicious, refined, monstruous, vile, evil, foul, wicked, elegant, cynical, or pleasant. Pleasant, mainly because I like a character, any character, well played, quite especially such a complex character as this excelling manipulator on the run. Well done, Mr Richardson. I watched series 1 entirely, intermitted with occasional looks to the left and to the right, to hydrangeas in bloom and ageing terracotta pottery, and if it weren’t for my cat and his dinner, I’d still be outside, watching series 2 and my garden in the moonlight.

Tea with an attitude.

It’s strange that all of my favourite teas are named after some men of nobility, English and Russian aristocrats like Earl Grey and Prince Vladimir, both obviously with a penchant for citrus fruits, agrumes, as the French call them, in fact, bergamot is quite elegant an aroma, especially when compared to the bitter-sweet smoke than infuses your air when brewing a lapsang souchong, no Mediterranean orchards come to mind, you’re rather transported to some opium den in 1920s Shanghai, quite depraved a situation, you wanted nothing but tea and refreshment and suddenly you’re an outcast looking for oblivion, although I’m suddenly remembering a rather smokey blend by Twinings named Prince of Wales, but as there were also opium dens that mirrored the finest to be found in China, with luxurious trappings and female attendants—why not to HRH The Prince of Wales? And then there’s that Frenchman Mirabeau, a count involved in numerous scandals before and after 1789, he rooted for both king and revolution, nobody ever knew whose side he was ever really on—knowing this, it’s amazing he died of natural causes. Liquorice and lychee in Mariage Frères’ Mirabeau blend reflect quite accordingly his ambiguity: a down to earth character as long as the earth is done in chinoiserie.

A Russian in the closet.

I think, actually, I’m pretty sure, I am Russian. How else could you explain all these traces of my Russian, how should we put it, homeland? Mother country? Native land? Everything in my kitchen, and there lives the soul, not in the living room, not in the drawing room (if you have so many rooms to pick a drawing room), no, these are only for showing off your good taste and status, but the soul of one’s home is to be found in the kitchen, there you find the things that define you, in my case, Russian teas. Admittedly, I bought most of the boxes not in Moscow but in Paris at La Grande Épicerie de Paris or, quite a tinier shopping experience, at the little Kusmi shop on rue de Seine, but who cares. The varieties are called St.Petersburg, Prince Vladimir or Russian Morning No. 24. Does it get any more Russian? I think not. Then there’s my Russian tea glass, ancient and hoary, from the time we still had the Czar. And everything’s red, red!, the most Russian colour of them all: the toaster, plain red, my salad cutlery (okay, it’s more to the lobster side of red, but still red), my cheese cleaver, my chopsticks (agreed, these are oxblood, a blue-ish oxblood, but still, they’re red) and even my detergent’s red. Have I given enough evidence? If only I spoke Russian to wish you a nice day in my mother language…

Let‘s drink and be merry.

Rest and have lots of fluids, they say. Well, I had lots of’em. Fluids galore. I am soaked. Up to today, day three of my flu, I have had so many lemon flavoured doses of effervescent vitamin C from my Lalique tumblers, even Linus Pauling would have disapproved. Luckily, I had also just stocked up on tea, Mangalam, my very favourite plantation in Assam. I am about to empty those provisions in record time, tea gets cold so very quickly in a cup, especially when you fall asleep just after pouring it, you have to pour it all away, litres of the finest tea down the sewer, it’s a shame, it’s of no use to brew an entire pot, really, but when you don’t, rest assured, you will regret that, too, as you won’t fall asleep then, suddenly you’re wide awake and thirsty, and you’ll want more tea with episode 5 of Downton Abbey or whatever series your brain is trying to follow, you’ll need a fresh cup, too, maybe even a fresh pot, you’re already going through all your china as it is, out goes Royal Copenhagen, in comes Meissen, anyway, you get up again from your sickbed, you schlepp your aching bones into the kitchen to brew some more tea, this Mangalam plantation must really be a vast territory, and then empty an entire pot in 7 minutes 46 seconds. Those viruses are drunkards!

Tea with Brigitte Macron.

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This gate to the Palais de l’Élysée’s spacious garden was of no great interest to my when I was last in Paris early this year, in late March, I think, by then, François Hollande was still residing there and I never cared much for him, I only really cared for Giscard d’Estaing who was in charge of France when I was a child, but now, a few months later, somebody else lives there, at 55, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, now it’s the garden of Monsieur and Madame Emmanuel Macron and my feelings have totally changed, now I want to trespass, forcing the guards to let me in, invite myself in to have tea in the shade with Brigitte while chit-chatting and advising her on what to wear, I think there is still Platz nach oben, as one would put it in German, some room left for improvement, idioms never translate well but you know what I mean, she’s not Melania Trump, is she? Melania Trump is so well dressed, some outfits are real stunners, let’s be honest, she’s a stunner herself, and her red Dior suit, worn in Paris on Christian Dior’s birthday (or was it the day of his passing?) was just as brilliantly chosen as her pale blue Ralph Lauren ensemble on inauguration day or the black lace by Dolce & Gabbana she was wearing when meeting the Pope in the Vatican. But then again, Melania’s still Melania, however well dressed she might be, the woman is married to Trump, the petulant seventh-grader inhibiting the White House, I despise them both with every fibre of my being, so no, I better not tell Brigitte Macron what to wear, I’d rather ask her what I should wear, she definitely makes perfect choices as far as men and their style are concerned.

Think pink. Think Camilla.

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Think pink. That’s what we learned from Funny Face’s Quality magazine’s editor-in-chief Maggie Prescott – Hollywood’s version of Diana Vreeland. Think pink. That’s what I learned from my mother. My life is quite unthinkable without her Pink Camilla china service, designed by Spode in the late 1700s. I grew up with it, took parts of it to my very first apartment, bought additional pieces myself, smashed dozens of cups and plates, some teapots, too, replaced it all, well, not all, only the pieces I smashed after making my own living, after turning 27, so to speak, I still have tea from a broken bouillon cup, its handle broke years and years ago, my doing of course, never anybody else’s, why that is I don’t know, I’m not that clumsy, believe you me, anyway, I had my cornflakes in it right before school and vichyssoise, game and charlotte russe on Christmas eve, lamb was served on it at Easter and strawberry extravaganzas on my birthday, it witnessed tears and laughter, the entertaining of dear friends and social obligation dinners, small talk and passed on top secret information, all over breakfast, lunch and dinner, over coffee, tea, wine and champagne, in summer and winter, in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the garden, in a nutshell, this china is part of my life, and however much I love my own Royal Copenhagen, Pink Camilla will always represent my home, my parents, my background. God bless her.

So, here’s a potpourri of pictures I took over my years on Instagram.

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Delicatessen obsession.

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Last night, I had the best of nightmares, I know, this may sound oxymoronic, but I can’t put it otherwise. You see, in that dream I was back in Paris, wandering the food halls of La Grande Épicerie de Paris, frolicking from aisle to aisle, from sweet to sour, from bread and butter, butter in so many varieties, salted or left alone, from buffalo to goat milk, French or Italian, to cheese, round, square and triangular in shape, looking ever so perfect, as if it didn’t end up on my baguette to be devoured with a glass of Château Whatever-they-have, from Italian pasta in ever such beautifully designed packaging, the agony of deciding which looks best, which pasta in which box, to all this pâté, nothing but pâté from the far left to the far right of your eye, from green teas to black teas, from unknown niche people to Fortnum’s, Kusmi and Mariage Frères, how many more boxes of Queen Anne, Mirabeau and Prince Wladimir can I possibly buy, I’m asking myself while humming “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” in my head, or aloud, I don’t know, out of context obviously, but no, here they all come, and hey, this sage is really aromatic, I’m taking all they have, wondering what to do with it, browsing through recipes in my head while checking out the rest of the store, caviar, oysters and lobster galore, but I pass, there’s Nicaraguan coffee and Sicilian honey to discover, oh those bees must lead happy lives, I’m facing mouthwatering joy and total despair as my basket cannot hold all I want, whatever I do the pyramid of goods is falling apart, over and over again, spreading my stuff on the floor, hindering other people in shiny shoes from walking, kicking it away from me, none of these items were mine to keep, neither the buffalo butter from some place in Italy, nor the pâté I have chosen, not even the organic artichokes of incredible dimensions, and please don’t get me started on what they are doing to my selection of French mustard and marmalades (lemon, grapefruit, orange and lime). I woke up screaming, but, wow, it was good!

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Royal Tea.

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Spring offers amazing opportunities. To fall in love, to visit Paris, and, most importantly, to have tea in the garden which is so much better for your complexion than having it in front of a fireplace, or if you don’t have a fireplace (which I don’t), next to a couple of Diptyque candles and nearly getting suffocated by the contrasting scents of Feu de Bois and Tubéreuse, and suffocation is not very becoming, you’re quite green, believe you me. Anyway, this year I’ll probably spend even more time en plein air as my friend Katja from Luxembourg was mucking out her house and garden before moving to another place, meaning we are going to have tea on her Belle Époque-ish garden furniture that turned a spot under the cherry tree into a Savannah backyard. I have to order some more of Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend. You really can’t have Earl Grey at this table. Way too unimportant a title. Unless he’s going to be promoted to Duke Grey any time soon, we must fall out.

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An ode to Denmark.

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I love Denmark. I’ve been there only once, years ago, to Copenhagen, one of the nicest places on earth, but I consider myself half-Danish. It all started with an ad on the back cover of a magazine in the early 1990s, Royal Copenhagen had its Musselmalet pattern painted on the beautiful hand of a china painter, so that we’ll never forget that it’s handpainted. I was sold. First of all, I am quite prone to buying anything that calls itself royal, and this porcelain pattern, Chinoiserie at its best, created in 1775, was so beautiful that I just couldn’t resist, I bought my first pieces the very next day, and I’ve been completing it ever since, tureens for Christmas, tea pots, I smashed several, for birthdays, tea cups to cheer me up on low days, bowls to have another reason for dinner parties, I became quite good at being obsessed with it, I celebrated each new job with the purchase of a new breakfast plate, and as every single piece looks different, yes, it’s really handpainted, each china painter signs it with his initials, I still know which one is the DDB plate or whichever advertising agency led to the purchase. Moving to Zurich meant buying my Havas plate, and I had to look for a shop that sold Royal Copenhagen. Boy, was I lucky. Aux Arts du Feu, at the corner of Zurich’s famous Bahnhofstrasse, opposite Bulgari, made my heart skip several beats at a time, they had pieces in stock from the late 70s, with the old green mark, long before production was moved to Thailand, antiques so to speak although never used, Switzerland doesn’t seem to care about Danish design, God knows why, maybe because it was my destiny to discover that store, one of the first things I bought was this tea cup, Musselmalet in full lace, a re-design from the 1880s, even more ornate, Danish magnificence in extremis, tea still doesn’t taste better, but it definitely looks more splendid. So, whenever I eat or drink, I’m enthralled by Danish splendour and beauty. And when I watch Borgen, of course. Long live the Queen!

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