“We ate quails eggs with melon and shrimps, roast pheasant, baked apples. To drink: vintage champagne, good hock with the shrimps, 1940 Latour with the pheasant and then port. Lunch went on till 4 o’clock. I enjoyed it…”
This book picks up where John Martin Robinson’s first volume of memoirs, Grass Seed in June, left off: his arrival in London in the early ’70s, to start “a twelve-year stint which was to be the most rewarding, effective and positive decade in my life…” We see how his lifetime passion to preserve architecture, to turn the clock back, established itself in the campaigns for Spitalfields and Mentmore, his membership of SPAB, the Victorian Society, SAVE and the Georgian Group—“I made…a solemn vow that I would devote my life to keeping ‘the past upon its throne’”.
Despite his assertion that “historic buildings are more worthwhile than people”, the people in JMR’s life also form part of the essential structure of this story. From the Young Fogeys and their icons—David Watkin in Cambridge, Monsignor Gilbey at the Travellers Club, or the Prince of Wales—to the glamour of the Georgian Rout ball in the 1980s, people, their idiosyncracies, weaknesses and qualities colour these pages. Sometimes the lighting might seem a little harsh, but as JMR says in mitigation, “I do try to be kind to widows and orphans”.