Review. Frans Hals: The Male Portrait at the Wallace Museum

A stunning new display of over 12 works by Frans Hals, one of the greatest masters of the Dutch Golden Age, offers a unique perspective on 17th century masculinity and sense of style. In a breakaway from the male gaze upon the female form, Hals fixes his painterly eye upon his male contemporaries. The portraits are displayed against a dark background, with subtle gallery lighting except for spotlights on each painting. It is a sexy, elegant and theatrical setting, and I fell in love with every single one.

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Review: Cooking With Heroes

The Royal British Legion is marking 100 years (1921-2021) with a new cookbook featuring recipes by personnel with contributions from, celebrity cooks and chefs.

The first thing to say about Cooking With Heroes is that it’s a very ambitious book at 470 pages. A tome both in terms of content and weight, it requires both hands to hold it up to read. The recipes appear by regions from Armagh to Zimbabwe, Essex to The Gambia, and Hampshire to New Zealand. There are favourites (Hello, Welsh rarebit!) and posh fish ‘n’ chips and other recipes, for instance, potato and apple bread, contributed by Chief Petty Officer John Potts, Royal Navy (Retired). Add to the mix personal stories, snippets of history and stunning photography and the wide appeal of this book will solve many Christmas gift shopping dilemmas. Or add it to your own Letter to Santa.

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This week… bread and circus

Another odd week in an age of odd times. In addition to the gods’ conspiracy to thwart travel writers with lockdowns, complicated travel guidelines and such-like, now there’s the fuel delivery shortage. After trying around eight stations (I lost count, and almost the will to live, after four) I queued for an hour to fill up. Having expected a wait of a couple of hours I thought that was reasonable (how mad can things get?).

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This week… tigers, skulls and a Del Boy moment

Temperatures have dropped in the UK this week and after what seemed like endless days of autumn sunshine we now have heavy rain. From now until around March bracing country walks, warming hot soups and evenings on the sofa watching great classic films are the general rule, including an annual rerun of Le CarrĂ©’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (BBC, 1979) with the much-missed Alec Guinness.

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Wild Food: Foraging on Cowdray Estate

While man has foraged for food since time began, in the mid 20th century before pre-commerical snacks and fast food had been invented, it was also a given that you searched the hedgerows for juicy autumn blackberries, elderberries, hazlenuts, windfall apples and plums. During my childhood eating nose to tail, and field to plate, was the everyday, rather than the trend. Food tastes so good when you’ve grown it or foraged for it.

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This week… chimney tops, ration books and guardian angels

Every September heritage houses, museums and other buildings throw open their doors to the public. Entry and tours are free despite the work of many of these organisations being independently funded, so a donation is welcome. The nationwide Heritage Open Days festival closes today and I took the opportunity take a peek behind the scenes over the nine-day event in Winchester. Here’s what I discovered.

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