Thursday 30 April 2020

Remembering “These Are Our Failures” by Christian Chensvold and The Take Ivy Style Exhibition at the FIT (September 14, 2012 – January 5, 2013) TAKE IVY STYLE (improved audio)


These Are Our Failures by Christian Chensvold
A Sartorial Black Comedy by Christian Chenvold

On a quiet Sunday, a disillusioned luxury lifestyle reporter receives a message from an Internet troll holding the scoop of a lifetime. What follows is an adventure halfway around the world to discover the fate of masculine elegance. In a frozen, desolate spot on the map, our hero finds himself facing a puzzling question: does the vanishing necktie signal the collapse of Western Civilization? In These Are Our Failures, an outrageous black comedy that blends James Bond tailoring with James Bond adventure, Christian Chensvold singlehandedly invents the genre of Apocalyptic Menswear Fiction for a polarized age.

Alan Flusser on Christian Chensvold’s tale of sartorial apocalypse, exclusively at Hanger Project.
"A bit slapstick, frequently thought-provoking, its roller-coaster story kept my eye on what promised to be a most unpredictable denouement. Riddled with remorse for menswear-as-once-known’s imminent demise, the author takes us on a madcap ride to a kind of frozen tundra of his Christmas past, where two self-appointed conservators of all things tweed and traditional are holed up in an imaginary edifice brimming over with sartorial treasures both bygone and about to be. "

Ivy Style Video Walk-through with Richard Press

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Malory Towers / Enid Blyton| VIDEO : TRAILER Streaming Now on BBC iPlayer | CBBC

Malory Towers review – midnight feasts and horrid sneaks make for a ripping Blyton yarn

The CBBC adaptation of Enid Blyton’s boarding-school classic bowls along so smoothly and sweetly, it’s hard not to love it

Lucy Mangan
Mon 6 Apr 2020 18.00 BSTLast modified on Tue 7 Apr 2020 08.57 BST
4 / 5 stars4 out of 5 stars.   

The North Tower girls ... Zoey Siewert, Twinkle Jaiswal, Beth Bradfield, Sienna Arif-Knights, Ella Bright, Danya Griver, Natasha Raphael, Imogen Lamb and Saskia Kemkers in Malory Towers.
 The North Tower girls ... Zoey Siewert, Twinkle Jaiswal, Beth Bradfield, Sienna Arif-Knights, Ella Bright, Danya Griver, Natasha Raphael, Imogen Lamb and Saskia Kemkers in Malory Towers. Photograph: John Medland/BBC/WildBrain/Queen Bert Limited
There is a strong argument that Enid Blyton would not have become quite the powerhouse she did had it not been for the second world war. She wrote her first full-length children’s book in 1937 (she would produce more than 800 further such volumes during the next half century) and became fully established during the years of the conflict. It seems likely that the upheaval of the time created the perfect emotional appetite among a bewildered and powerless juvenile populace for formulaic, just-thrilling-enough adventures for brave children, or cosy boarding school stories that always ended with the good triumphant and the bad suitably punished – or shown the error of their ways and thoroughly reformed.

How right, then, that she and her particular brand of succour should return to us now, at a time of renewed national crisis. The BBC released its new 13-part adaptation of Malory Towers early on iPlayer when the schools closed, to provide extra entertainment for children suddenly shorn of occupation – and respite for parents suddenly overwhelmed. Now the series is being broadcast on CBBC, as originally planned.

The great skill in adapting much-loved material from big literary brands is to work out what is and is not broke. Blyton was a self-made, self-maintained brand – she knew what she could do and that it was successful, and did it, at a peak rate of 10,000 words a day, for 50 years without feeling the need to deviate from or stretch beyond her natural reach.

It is a lesson the writers of the series, Sasha Hails and Rachel Flowerday, have applied in abundance. They have kept Blyton’s utter lack of cynicism and her unstinting willingness to put the child reader (here, viewer) first and address them directly, simply and without condescension. They have kept the sense of joy and freedom Blyton’s characters always exude, and they tread as unerringly as she did the fine lines between jeopardy and real threat, moral dilemma and true conflict. The programme-makers are aided by a fine cast, especially Ella Bright as the central character, Darrell Rivers, who manages to pull off being cheery and (overall) good without being dull. Above all, Hails and Flowerday keep all the liveliness and charm the books have for readers who come to them at the right age and remember them fondly for decades thereafter. (A warning to the latter: do not attempt to reread and recapture the moment. Generally, it does not go well.)

The famous Blytonian weaknesses have been unobtrusively addressed. The cast is diverse in numerous ways – aside perhaps from class, which was probably always going to be a bridge too far for a 50s boarding school series – and Miss Grayling implicitly envisages careers for the “goodhearted, loyal women unafraid to forge new futures” in a world explicitly acknowledged (as was never done by Blyton) as still suffering the aftermath of war. Gwendolyn is as chided for her belief that all women need do is get married as she is for … well, being Gwendolyn.
At the same time, the behaviour and treatment of Gwendolyn is deepened. Instead of simply being the loathsome drip and sneak, a love-to-hate figure for the dorm and for generations of readers, we see her struggle with loneliness and an inability to make friends: she strikes out in response to her problems rather than through simple malice. That does not mean we need to forgive her for her public revelation of Darrell’s secret shame, mind you. Lines must still be drawn.

All the right tropes – midnight feasts, lacrosse team selections and disappointments, the formidable Matron (a Trunchbullesque figure played by This Country’s Ashley McGuire), the rock pool (although it now has a lifeguard, one of the few details that does strike an unnecessary unBlytonian note of modern realism) – are hit. It bowls along so smoothly and sweetly that you would be hard pressed not to love it.

Although. Although. There is a … boy. He is from the village, his name is Ron and I am not sure how I feel about that yet. Still, overall – absolutely ripping.

'Downton for kids': BBC brings forward Malory Towers adaptation
This article is more than 1 month old
Enid Blyton’s girls’ boarding school adventure provides tales of hope in times of crisis

Tara Conlan
Published onFri 20 Mar 2020 14.51 GMT

When Enid Blyton wrote the schoolgirl series Malory Towers after the second world war she injected tales of hope and camaraderie into it to reflect a Britain coming together after a time of crisis.

Now the BBC hopes its modern adaptation of the boarding school adventures of 12-year-old Darrell Rivers will do the same and it has brought the programme forward by a fortnight to Monday as a boost for children missing their final week of school because of the coronavirus.

Although TV’s first adaption of Malory Towers is set in the late 1940s, it has been brought up to date with an ethnically, socially and visually diverse cast and contains many themes relevant to today’s audience.

Sasha Hails and Rachel Flowerday, who adapted the books for the 13-part TV show, said it has a particular resonance in the current climate.

“It feels like absolutely the right time to tell it … as part of the exploration of our times,” said Hails.

She said despite Malory Towers being about schoolgirls: “This is a show for families, kids can watch it with their parents and grandparents; they’re universal stories.”

The rise of the #MeToo movement also makes the time right for Malory Towers, as Flowerday explained.

“There’s a brilliant quiet feminism in the books and we wanted to draw on that. It was so liberating and exciting writing a show where nearly every character on screen nearly all of the time is female.

“It’s really powerful we’re able to do that; we’re at a place in the world where people will sit down, we hope, and watch it. Almost every scene passes the Bechdel test!”

Zoey Siewert, who plays prankster Alicia Johns, added: “Most of the cast is girls and women and I love that because there’s not a lot of women who are main roles in shows these days.”

Her co-star Ella Bright, who plays Rivers, said her character was “quite a feminist role model”, which was “a good message for young children, especially young girls”.

Although Blyton has been criticised in the past for not being relevant, producer Grainne McNamara said: “Actually Blyton is quite progressive in her thinking … the way she represented those girls in the school is you can go out and be anything and do anything you want, and I think the TV series has really tried to lift that out of the book and focus on it.”

The show has kept the fun, midnight feast and tricks from the books but does not shy away from darker themes such as bullying, loss and vaccinations. The TV version has introduced new characters and ideas such as dyslexia but overall it has what McNamara called “a warm sunny feel” making it like “Downton Abbey for children”.

Filmed in Canada and on location in Cornwall and at Devon country house, Hartland Abbey, McNamara said: “It looks like the Railway Children; we’ve consciously made it like that [so] you’d want to go there. We want every viewer to want to go to Malory Towers and feel they want to be Darrell Rivers or Gwen or whoever.”

More diverse characters have also been introduced as Hails explained: “We obviously wanted a diverse cast, as did the BBC, to represent our viewers of today but we wanted it to be authentic. Once we dug in it was quite clear that Britain has been more diverse than it’s often accounted for.”

With 500m worldwide sales of Blyton’s books, there has been global interest in the series, which is being co-produced by David Walliams’ company King Bert and Canadian company WildBrain. Flowerday admitted they felt the pressure to get it right: “It was really important that we did it justice and the cast and crew have done that.”

McNamara said “sackloads of mail” had been sent to King Bert by fans of the books, “people are just so excited about it. I think it’s that real nostalgia for it”.

Danya Griver, who plays Gwendoline Mary Lacey, said many of the themes in the six Malory Towers books were relevant to children today: “It’s good to see things don’t always go to plan; life is great and you must always treasure the things that go well but sometimes they don’t and I think it’s important for people to see if they’ve gone through a bad time they’re not the only one.”

This Country star Ashley McGuire, who plays Matron, said despite the modernisations: “We do try to stay faithful to how they would have talked.

“The sensibilities in those books are things we still look for today; they’ve got a comradeship … they fight for one another; they’ve got good values. Some things are very different but it’s not a million miles away from how we want our children to enjoy school and one another. They take care of each other.”

Malory Towers will air on BBC iPlayer from Monday and on CBBC in April.

New TV drama reveals Enid Blyton as a barking-mad adulterous bully …
by Lisa Sewards for Mailonline
13 November 2009

On paper, the world of Enid Blyton was one populated by happy, carefree children whose idea of bliss at the end of an adventure-filled day was a slice of plum cake washed down by lashings of ginger beer.
The setting was an idyllic Britain, one of thatched cottages and lych gates, a fairytale time, in an age of innocence.
But the creator of Noddy, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and Malory Towers was in truth a cold-hearted mother and a vindictive adultress who set out to destroy her former husband.

Barking mad: Enid Blyton will be played by Helena Bonham Carter (right) in a new television drama
The darker revelations, which will dissolve the image of Blyton conveyed by her 753 much-loved books, are part of a brilliant new television biopic, starring Helena Bonham Carter as the author.
At first glance, Blyton's life seems unlikely material for gripping drama, as much of it consisted of her sitting at a desk, knocking off 10,000 words a day. Her books sold 600million copies around the world and made her extremely rich and famous. Her works still sell eight million copies a year.
But Blyton's home life at her cottage, Old Thatch, near the Thames at Bourne End, then at Green Hedges, a mock-Tudor house in Beaconsfield, was nothing like as idyllic as the picture she tried to create.
In spite of the children's nursery, crumpets for tea, Bimbo the cat and Topsy the dog, all foisted on the public in convenient photocalls to project the Blyton brand, the truth was more conflicted.
Enid Blyton pays a visit to Victoria Palace in 1958 to meet some of the young artists who will portray her characters in Noddy In Toyland
Fairytale time: The author pays a visit to Victoria Palace in 1958 to meet some of the young artists who will portray her characters in Noddy In Toyland

Children's favourite: Blyton's Famous Five books are still delighting young readers across the world
'Enid's self-awareness was brilliant and she was incredibly controlling, too,' explains Bonham Carter. 'I was attracted to the role because she was bonkers. She was an emotional mess and quite barking mad.
'What I found extraordinary, bordering on insane, was the way that Enid reinvented her own life. She was allergic to reality - if there was something she didn't like then she either ignored it or re-wrote her life.
'She didn't like her mother, so let her colleagues assume she was dead. When her mother died, she refused to attend the funeral. Then the first husband didn't work out, so she scrubbed him out.
'There's also a scene in the film where her dog dies, but she carries on pretending he's still alive because she can't bear the truth.'
Emotionally, Blyton remained a little girl, stuck in a world of picnics, secret-society codes and midnight feasts. It acted as a huge comfort blanket.
Many of Blyton's obsessions can be traced to her father, who left her mother when Enid was 12. She then seized up emotionally and physically.
'It was my job to understand how she became like this in the first place, not to judge her,' explains Bonham Carter.
'When Enid consulted a gynaecologist about her failure to conceive, she was diagnosed as having an immature uterus and had to have surgery and hormone treatment before she could have children.'

Cold-hearted mother: Blyton with her daughters Gillian and Imogen
The irony was that when she finally did have two daughters, Gillian and Imogen, with her first husband, Hugh Pollock, she was unable to relate to them as a normal mother.
She loved signing thousands of letters to her 'friends' the fans, encouraging them to collect milk bottle tops for Great Ormond Street Hospital to help the war effort, and even ran a competition to name her house, Green Hedges.
But her neighbours said Blyton used to complain about the fearful racket made by children playing.
She was distant and unkind to her younger daughter Imogen and there was clear favouritism in the way she privileged her elder daughter Gillian, who died two years ago aged 75.

Imogen Smallwood, 74, says: 'My mother was arrogant, insecure and without a trace of maternal instinct. Her approach to life was childlike, and she could be spiteful, like a teenager.'
Although Imogen prefers to remain private, she did visit the set to advise Bonham Carter. 'We had email correspondence before Imogen visited the set. We agreed that I wasn't going to try to impersonate her mother because this is a drama,' says Helena.
'Imogen is sensitive, but was very supportive and gave me a few tips, such as how her mother did everything at immense speed because she was ruled by the watch. Enid's domestic life was seen as an interruption to her writing, which was her escapism.'
There is a poignant scene in the film where Blyton holds a tea party at home for her fans, or 'friends' as she preferred to call them. But her daughters are banished to the nursery.
'Enid is one of the kids at the Famous Five tea parties - the jelly and ice-cream are as much for her as they are for her fans,' explains Helena.
'It's also significant that when her daughters go to school, a large mannequin of Noddy - her new child - arrives in the hall to take the place of the children.'
Blyton's first husband, Hugh, called her 'Little Bunny' and adored her. He helped launch her career after they met when he was her editor at Newnes, the publisher.
Blyton's first book, Child Whispers, a collection of poems, was published in 1922. She wrote in her diary soon after meeting him: 'I want him for mine.'
They were married for 19 years, but as Enid's career took off in the Thirties, Hugh grew depressed and took to nightly drinking sessions in the cellar while Enid managed to fit affairs in between writing.
The marriage deteriorated and Hugh moved out. She mocked him in later adventure stories, such as The Mystery Of The Burnt Cottage, as the clueless cop, PC Theophilus Goon.
After a bitter divorce, she married surgeon Kenneth Darrell Waters, with whom she had a fulfilling sex life.

Although the drama shows Blyton's flirtatiousness - she entertained servicemen to dinner at the house while her husband was away at war and found them and their attention attractive - directors chose to omit some aspects of Blyton's apparently sensual side, such as visitors arriving to find her playing tennis naked and suggestions of a lesbian affair with her children's nanny, Dorothy Richards.
But the drama, which has been given the thumbs-up by the Enid Blyton Society, does highlight the author's cruel streak. When Hugh remarried, as she had done, Blyton was so furious that she banned her daughters from seeing their father.
According to Ida Crowe, who later married Hugh, Blyton's revenge was to stop him from seeing Gillian and Imogen, and to prevent him from finding work in publishing. He went bankrupt and sank into depression and drinking.
Ms Crowe, 101, is using her memoir, Starlight, published this month, to break her silence on her feelings towards Blyton, whom she portrays as cold, distant and malevolent. Ms Crowe confirms that during her first marriage, Blyton embarked on a string of affairs, including a suspected relationship with nanny Richards.
Yet Blyton could never forgive Hugh for finding happiness of his own when their marriage ended.
Rosemary Pollock, 66, daughter of Ida and Hugh, says: 'My father. was an honourable man - not the flawed, inconsequential one which was the deliberate misconception perpetuated by Enid.'
Ida and Hugh met when she was 21 and he was 50. In her memoirs, she describes him as 'shatteringly handsome' - tall and slim with golden hair and blue eyes.
After Ida narrowly escaped death in an air raid, she says, Hugh asked for a divorce and Enid agreed. The memoirs claim, however, that Hugh agreed to be identified as the 'guilty' party in the divorce in return for an amicable separation and access to their daughters.
But Rosemary says: 'This agreement was a sham because Enid had no intention of allowing him any kind of contact with either of the girls. She even told Benenden, the girls' boarding school, that on no account was their father, who was paying the bills, to be allowed near them.'
Ida and Hugh married within days of the divorce being granted in October 1943. Gillian and Imogen were 12 and eight. Rosemary got in touch with her half-sisters after Enid's death in 1968, at the age of 71.

Rosemary says: 'Gillian said the last time she saw her father was when they were walking to Beaconsfield station and she had this awful feeling she was not going to see him again.
'She said that on her wedding day, she looked around the church and hoped her father would turn up. My father said he was devastated not to have been invited to Gillian's wedding.'
Rosemary has also accused Enid of wrecking Hugh's literary career. 'Enid was capable of many vindictive things and she didn't want her former husband occupying a prominent position in London publishing, a world she dominated.
'My father had to file for bankruptcy in 1950 because he couldn't find work. She also put out a story that he was a drunk and an adulterer, and that he had made her life a misery.
'Incredibly, Enid even wrote to my mother three years after they had both remarried, saying: "I hope he doesn't ruin your life as he did mine."
'My father did drink, but it was in order to numb the pain. I never heard him criticise Enid. He would praise her remarkable talents.'
Certainly, Blyton is enjoying a renaissance. Disney UK is planning a new, animated feature called Famous 5: On The Case, in which the children of the original Five, and a dog, enjoy some new adventures.
She was also named Britain's best-loved author in a poll last month.
Imogen attributes her mother's success to the fact she 'wrote as a child with an adult's writing skills'.
Despite her private life, no amount of detraction will diminish Blyton as one of Britain's great writers who shaped millions of childhood imaginations. Although it may be harder for the adults they grew into to imagine what the creator of Noddy got up to in real life.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Bon chic, bon genre 2 / VIDEO : Les Inconnus - Auteuil Neuilly Passy

 In the 1990s, French humor trio Les Inconnus even recorded a song entitled ''Rap BCBG'' or ''Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy'', which are regarded as a triangle of posh Parisian neighborhoods where the BCBG tend to congregate, to mock people living in these areas and their supposedly complicated life.
This single was one of the biggest hits of the year 1991 and remains to this day a reference in French humor, so don't be surprised if you ever hear a local jokingly hum the song.

Bon chic bon genre, which can also be shortened to BCBG, is the French version of posh, preppie or Sloaney - ''Good style, good class''.

Bon chic, bon genre (French for '"Good style, good class"') is an expression used in France to refer to a subculture of stylish members of the Paris upper class. They are typically well-educated, well-connected, and descended from "old money" families, preferably with some aristocratic ancestry. The style combines certain fashionable tastes with the appearance of social respectability. The expression is sometimes shortened to "BCBG" (the fashion company BCBG Max Azria was named in reference to the subculture).

Parallels are often seen between this subculture and similar upper-class social groups in the United States ("preppy") and the United Kingdom ("Sloane Rangers"). As with those groups, BCBG drew mainstream attention during the 1980s. Thierry Mantoux published a handbook for BCBG style (BCBG - Le Guide du bon chic bon genre) in the 1980s, a French equivalent to The Official Preppy Handbook and The Sloane Ranger Handbook, both published earlier in the decade. Examples of BCBG are seen in Clive James’s first 'Postcard from’ series where he visits Paris (tv episode ‘Clive James Postcard From Paris’ 1989) where he is sitting in a cafe and people demonstrating ‘good BCBG’ are pointed out to him.

The BCBG social group is not to be confused with the "bobo" Paris fashion subculture (short for "bohemian bourgeois").

The BCBG social group is associated with certain residential areas in Paris and Versailles. BCBG are often identified with the "NAP" area formed by the triangle between Neuilly-Auteuil-Passy, from the 16th arrondissement to the Bois de Boulogne, as well as the 6th arrondissement closer to the centre of Paris, and the 7th and 8th arrondissements for shopping.

 While chic can be quite of a compliment on its own, the expression bon chic bon genre tends to be used to describe and stereotype people from the bourgeoisie who try too hard to maintain a certain image of their life and themselves. While this is not an insult, this is also rarely used as a compliment, so beware.

For a French to describe someone as BCBG, they would most certainly have to wear at least one of these items on a day-to-day basis: a pearl necklace, an emblematic silk scarf from the high-end fashion brand Hermes or a three-piece suit.

Here is an example of how you could use this expression: Je ne vais pas acheter cette robe, elle fait trop bon chic bon genre! - I'm not going to buy this dress, it is way too posh!

In the collective imagination, it is also common to associate the expression with hyphenated first names such as Charles-Henri or Marie-Francoise and more generally to traditional Catholic culture and strict education.

Saturday 25 April 2020

Benson & Clegg

Benson & Clegg was founded in 1937 by Harry Benson and Thomas Clegg at its original premises of 34 Bury Street London SW1. After thirty years cutting experience they decided the time was right for them to branch out and bring their own unique style of tailoring to customers.
Over the years the company branched out into a large range of menswear accessories such as neckwear, buttons, badges and cufflinks, all of which was inspired by our tailoring heritage and dedication to classic British style.

Today the business is owned by Barry Austin and Mark Gordon.

After graduating Queen Mary University of London with a degree in politics, Mark joined the Metropolitan Police as an Intelligence Analyst. Passionate about English luxury goods and keen to promote traditional businesses he then moved to Benson & Clegg as a company director with responsibility for business development. In 2014 he took joint ownership of the business and currently serves as Managing Director.
“To lead a company of such heritage and prestige is one of the greatest honours of my career. I am dedicated to ensuring we remain true to our time honoured values of craftsmanship and quality in offering our customers the impeccable English wardrobe”.

Barry started his career in the automotive business, though quickly excelled to focus on business and commercial matters. He brought these skills to Benson & Clegg back in 1993, and was made a company director in 1998. Barry is now a joint owner of the business and leads our custom order department.
“I love working with customers on their bespoke tie, cufflink and badge designs. It’s fantastic to turn those initial design ideas into wonderful custom made accessories that will be an integral part of people’s wardrobe for years to come”.

Inspired to join the artisanal craft of tailoring since the age of seventeen, Oliver has advanced his skills at a tremendous rate to become one of Savile Row’s most distinguished and respected cutters. Oliver spent many of his formative tailoring years at Meyer & Mortimer under the watchful eye of his mentor, Savile Row’s renowned cutter Malcolm Plews. Having honed his craft over these many years, Oliver is now Head Cutter, working from his cutting board in the tailoring lounge at 9 Piccadilly Arcade.

Benson & Clegg
Benson & Clegg was founded in 1937 by Harry Benson and Thomas Clegg at its original premises of 34 Bury Street London SW1. After thirty years cutting experience they decided the time was right for them to branch out and bring their own unique style of tailoring to customers. It wasn’t until 1976 that Benson & Clegg moved to its historic premises of Number 9 Piccadilly Arcade on London’s famous Jermyn Street.

Over the years the company branched out into a large range of menswear accessories such as neckwear, buttons, badges and cufflinks, all of which was inspired by our tailoring heritage and dedication to classic British style.

Today the business is owned by Barry Austin, Mark Gordon and Tony Martin

For over 75 years our company has grown to become one of London’s most well known and respected providers of true bespoke tailoring to the modern gentleman. Combined with our large range of accessories, we have the ability to provide everything a gentleman needs for a smart and stylish wardrobe to cater for all occasions.

General Information


9 Piccadilly Arcade

London SW1Y 6NH

Thursday 23 April 2020

Lady Dufferin , Marchioness of Dufferin / VIDEO: 1/4 Clandeboye (Ep5) - The Country House Revealed


Who's that lady? The extraordinary life of the Marchioness of Dufferin

It takes great reserves of chutzpah to live in a place like Clandeboye but Lady Dufferin is not lacking

Thu, Feb 2, 2017, 06:00
Fionola Meredith

Perched on a window-sill, her Hunter wellington boots elegantly propped on the back of a chair, Lady Dufferin is telling me all about her amazing yoghurt. Made from the milk of her beloved herd of pedigree Jersey and Holstein cows, Clandeboye Estate’s yoghurt is a tremendous success story. You seem to see it everywhere, these days: in supermarkets, garages, farmers’ markets and independent shops across Ireland and the UK, and it has won numerous awards. Clandeboye, in Co Down, is one of Ireland’s oldest and largest estates, and it’s entirely self-sufficient, free of trusts and foundations – which is why the yoghurt has proved to be such a God-send.

“The money it makes keeps the engine of the estate going from day to day,” says Lady Dufferin, otherwise known as Lindy Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava. “We all work as a team, everyone has to be interchangeable, and we’re fantastically proud of our yoghurt, all of us.” She grins. “Though I have to say, I don’t think I could milk a cow.”

The 75-year-old Marchioness is deaf, though you’d never guess: she’s an expert lip-reader, and besides, her playfulness and vivacity – the sheer force of her personality – outweigh everything else.

There aren’t many people like Lady Dufferin around any more. She has had a long, extraordinary life, surrounded by the foremost artists of her time – David Hockney, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud – many of whom came to Clandeboye for glorious bohemian parties, in the days when Dufferin and her late husband Sheridan were at the very centre of the London art scene. Sheridan, the fifth and final Marquess of Dufferin and Ava – he was named after his ancestor, the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan – was a committed patron of the arts, and co-founded the famous Kasmin Gallery in New Bond Street in 1963. He died in 1988, from an Aids-related illness, aged 49.

An artist herself – she paints as Lindy Guinness – Lady Dufferin continues to live at a pitch of intensity that few people achieve. But right now she wants to talk about one of her favourite subjects: those pedigree cows.

“I call them ‘the ladies’,” she says. “Countless champions, the best cows in Ireland.” Cared for by her loyal cow-man and herd manager Mark Logan, who has been at Clandeboye for decades – Dufferin affectionately refers to him as the herd’s “permanent hair-dresser” – they aren’t just the source of milk for the yoghurt, they’re also regular sitters for Dufferin’s art. Sheltering in her painting hut, out on the 2,000 acre estate, she spends hours studying their angular forms. A new series of her abstract cow paintings is currently on show in the Ava Gallery at Clandeboye. In a special publication to accompany one of her London exhibitions, Dufferin reflects on the fascination. “It is a journey I am on,” she writes. “I am searching for the essence, or platonic form of the cow-ishness of cows. They intrigue me . . . Essentially, I love to draw the cows as they are, in my mind, an integral part of Clandeboye – I can’t think of the land without the cows. They are interchangeable in my mind, with the trees, the clouds, the wind patterns – they all seem to echo the cows.”

Cows are far from her only subjects, however. On one occasion, she painted the Rev. Ian Paisley. “It’s in the Ulster Museum, I think, perhaps they are too nervous to show it,” says Dufferin wryly. It’s a characterful, energetic portrait, showing a robed Paisley wearing a florid tie with flags and the word “no” written on it. Dufferin was taught to paint by the great Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka, and also by Duncan Grant, of the Bloomsbury group. She has described meeting Grant, when she was 17, as “one of those chance meetings that change the course of one’s life”. She travelled to France and Spain with him, and later he visited Clandeboye. “My whole development as a person and as an artist is entwined with Duncan.”

I’m not surprised to learn that it was Lady Dufferin herself who came up with the idea for making Clandeboye yoghurt: as well as her passion for art and aesthetics, she clearly has a strong entrepreneurial side. “Well, what happens is that I go and get frivolous ideas in London [she has a mansion in Holland Park] and read books and come up with wild ideas,” she says. “Some of them are shot down, but some of them win.”

One of Dufferin’s initiatives is an un-staffed “honesty” shop within the grounds of Clandeboye, where customers can buy milk, yoghurt, eggs, honey and granola – the various products of the estate – and put the money they owe into a box. Just before Christmas, thieves broke into the box and took the cash, but Dufferin remains undeterred. “The point is that it’s been running for eight years now, and it balances out pretty fairly. It’s really good, it gives a nice, ungreedy atmosphere to the estate. I think the people who stole – perhaps they might just have been feeling a bit un-Christmassy?”

Mark Logan and Bryan Boggs, the yoghurt business manager, exchange smiles. “Lady Dufferin has the idea that she would like to open honesty shops all over the country,” says Boggs. “A famous American billionaire told me that I really ought to do it,” insists Dufferin. “He said it wouldn’t matter how many times we were broken into, the publicity [for the yoghurt sales] would be so huge.” Logan and Boggs look sceptical. “Well, these gentlemen will never let me get away with it. When they say no, that’s it.”

“Yes,” says Boggs. “It’s a sort of semi-democracy, but not totally.”

Lady Dufferin is particularly proud that the main supermarkets stock Clandeboye Estate yoghurt. “If you’re dealing with the big boys, Tesco and Aldi, normally it isn’t a sort of homegrown activity. What’s unique about this is that we have actually penetrated the big boys with our product and they are very, very pleased with it. And it hit just at the moment when they were feeling a bit conscious that they needed to support local people.” Eight years ago, Clandeboye started off by making 300 litres of yoghurt a week, and now they produce over 2,000 litres a day. The thick Greek-style yoghurt, which is hand-strained through cheese-cloths in the traditional way, is their most popular variety. Each pot carries a reproduction of one of Lady Dufferin’s paintings. Bryan Boggs thinks they have made in the region of five million reproductions of her paintings now. “That’s how I came to be the most famous disposable artist in the world,” she quips.

“There was a terrible moment when we first sent our yoghurt to Sainsbury’s,” says Dufferin. “I was hanging on the end of the telephone, waiting, waiting, waiting to hear, and everyone went along to look at the shelves and there was no Clandeboye yoghurt. And I got more and more sad, more and more depressed, and finally we found out that the packaging we sent it in wasn’t big enough for their machine, so it had gone round picking up everybody else’s yoghurt and missing ours. Terrible.”

“I’ve been here for 25 years,” says Mark Logan, “and the herd has changed a lot in that time. I turned up very enthusiastic about pedigree cattle and showing. Lady Dufferin was already interested, she saw my enthusiasm and was keen to support it. Lady Dufferin was having dinner with the Rothschilds and they were talking about having cows flown in from Canada, so she arrived back at Clandeboye and came to see me and said – ‘could that work?’ And I said ‘yes’. She said ‘would you like to do that?’. And I said ‘yes!’ Within a year, we brought one over. It wasn’t like ‘here’s a blank cheque, Mark, go and spend it’. But the herd developed from there.”

“Everything has dove-tailed,” says Lady Dufferin. “Because of the fact that Mark’s been hugely successful with championship cows and winning all sorts of prizes, suddenly what appeared to be a kind of hobby became fantastic publicity. What started out as pleasure, or an aspect of excellence, with no ulterior financial gain, suddenly it became this fantastic publicity stunt. So now we have these champion cows producing champion yoghurt on champion land. That’s what’s so wonderful.”

Now, with the recent purchase of a methane digester, which generates electricity from cow waste, Dufferin has high hopes of making Clandeboye completely energy self-sufficient: “the sun makes the grass grow, the cows eat the grass and they produce milk and then the dung, which goes into the digester and it creates electricity to run the factory and then on and on in this great cycle of energy.” For more than 30 years, the Northern Ireland branch of Conservation Volunteers, a cross-community environmental project, has also been based at Clandeboye,

Dufferin has a charming, child-like, entirely unaffected innocence in her manner which can get her into trouble at times. For instance, when she confessed to a reporter that she hadn’t a clue about supermarkets because she had never been inside one, the British press ridiculed her. But little fazes the Marchioness. She ended up having a hilarious conversation about it with her old friend David Hockney, who rang up after he saw her being mocked in the papers. She has previously described the artist as absolutely enchanting, entirely original in his approach: “he takes life by the short and curlies and gives it a shake.” Hockney even came on honeymoon with the Dufferins. She remembers Hockney with his “very round spectacles and very blond hair”, driving around America with them in an open-top Cadillac.

Hockney remains a dear presence in Dufferin’s world, and although they don’t see each other quite so often these days, she recently lent a number of her personal collection of Hockney paintings for the extensive new retrospective of his work at Tate Britain, in London, opening on February 9th.

When Miss Belinda Guinness – as she was then – married her cousin, Sheridan Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, in October 1964 in Westminster Abbey, it was a spectacular affair. The New York Times described the 22-year-old bride’s dress in detail: “it had a bodice molded to a slightly raised waistline, a narrow roll collar and a princess line skirt flowing to a 15-foot court train held at the shoulders with small tailored bows. The bride’s veil of tulle was attached to the Dufferin and Ava shamrock tiara.” Afterwards, a reception for 1,800 guests was held across three floors of the Café Royal, with a fleet of buses used to transport guests from the Abbey. As a wedding gift, Lindy’s father, the financier Loel Guinness, gave her a wardrobe of 20 dresses by the Parisian designer Antonio Castillo.

“He saw a photograph of me,” says Dufferin, remembering her husband. “He cut out the photograph and he stuck it on his shaving mirror, and he said ‘I’m going to marry that woman’.”

Dufferin had an odd, disconnected and sometimes turbulent upbringing, mostly cared for by nannies. She was born on March 25th, 1941, at a Scottish airport, of all places: her father was group captain of a squadron stationed at Prestwick, and he declared that his heavily pregnant wife, then aged only 18, should have her child there. “He said the birth should take place at the airport to cheer everyone up,” says Dufferin. “New life in the middle of the war, you know.” Later, he taught his little daughter to fly a helicopter, perched on his knee.

In 1951, Loel Guinness divorced Lindy’s mother, Lady Isabel Manners, and married the Mexican-born socialite Gloria Rubio. “She was a complex figure, very beautiful, and famous in the fashion world,” recalls Dufferin. After her father took her out of school at the age of 14, Dufferin spent time with her new stepmother in Palm Beach, where Truman Capote was also a house-guest. “Oh, he was a famous court jester, he had a brilliant mind. He had a slanting approach to life.”

Dufferin also remembers meeting the French undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau: “I would have been about seven years old, and I was sitting on a yacht with my father in the south of France, it was the port in Antibes. I heard an odd, gurgling sound in the water, and out came a man with a helmet on his head. My father pulled him on to the boat and they started chatting. I had little baby aqua-lungs and later I went down with Cousteau.”

The Marchioness throws out these vignettes and anecdotes about the people of her life quite casually. Lucian Freud, who was briefly married to Sheridan’s sister, Caroline Blackwood, in the 1950s, is summed up as “very tricky, brilliantly clever”. But you get the impression that she has no desire to dwell on lost friends or years gone by. There’s too much going on in here and now for her to linger, as many older people do, in half-forgotten memories.

For a woman so determinedly rooted in the present, Lady Dufferin lives in a house that is a fantastic, melancholy shrine to the past. And yet she is clearly devoted to it, and takes her responsibilities as custodian very seriously. She has always felt comfortable here, even during the Troubles. “Many of my English friends were deeply concerned about my security but understood I had total confidence about being both a Guinness and a Dufferin and [was] proud of both these cross-Border Irish connections,” she said in an earlier interview.

Clandeboye is a late Georgian country house, dating back to 1801, which was transformed by the first Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Sheridan’s great-grandfather. Frederick was close friends with Queen Victoria, and a renowned diplomat who became Governor-General of Canada and Viceroy of India. Above all, he was an avid collector, and Clandeboye holds many of his strange treasures: stuffed baby bears, Indian cut-throat weapons, ornate Burmese day-beds, an Egyptian altar-piece, a tiger-skin rug. At either side of the grand staircase stands a pair of narwhal tusks, glimmering eerily in the semi-darkness.

Yet to Dufferin, Clandeboye is simply home. She kicks off her shoes and dumps her handbag unceremoniously at the bottom of the stairs, under the narwhal tusks. In the dining room, surrounded by portraits of Blackwood ancestors, a single place is set for dinner. It strikes you that it would take great reserves of personal chutzpah to live in a place like Clandeboye. But Lady Dufferin is not lacking in this respect.

She is receiving a cochlear implant soon, which will help her hearing. “Yes, I’m going to be a cyborg,” she says, clearly relishing the novel prospect of being part-human, part-machine. For the irrepressible Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, it’s always about what comes next.

Lady Dufferin on extraordinary life mixing with rich and famous

Ahead of next month’s Aspects Festival, Lady Dufferin tells Linda Stewart of her gilded life mixing with famous faces such as Princess Margaret, Jacques Cousteau and Truman Capote, and why she regards her Clandeboye estate outside Bangor as a rich resource for the arts in Northern Ireland

August 25 2018 08:38 AM

Heads down, brains plugged into our mobile phones and thumbs tapping away as we drift far from the here and now - technology is no friend to the creative spirit. Lady Dufferin is passionate about nurturing the creative side of our nature - and is worried about where technology is leading us.

"It's very, very dangerous what is happening," she says.

But the Marchioness of Ava and Dufferin is by no means immune to the seductive lure of the smartphone. The lively noblewoman admits she is a recent convert to the delights of Instagram, where she shows off her art.

Lady Dufferin draws on the beauties of her beloved Clandeboye Estate, outside Bangor, as inspiration for her art, painting or sketching for two or three hours every day from a wheeled hut which is towed into position by a tractor.

"I adore Instagram. Two days ago I did a little sketch on the spot and put it on to Instagram - and out pop 164 people saying they like it," she says.

"Before, it would have had to just go in a cupboard and no one would ever have seen it again, or it would have been thrown away."

Lady Dufferin will bring together her twin passions - art and nature - with the Clandeboye Reading Party on September 1 and 2 as part of the inspirational Aspects Festival in North Down and a joint initiative between Trinity College Dublin, Queen's University Belfast and Clandeboye Estate.

The weekend event will feature talks from Clandeboye poet-in-residence Sean Borodale and Sir Bob Salisbury, who developed one of Ireland's most significant wildlife gardens.

Meanwhile, Lady Dufferin will launch the reading party herself with a talk reflecting on how the landscape of Clandeboye Estate has influenced her as a painter. Although deaf, she is an excellent lip reader and avid communicator.

The Reading Party initiative was cooked up a couple of years ago by Lady Dufferin and Northern Ireland-born historian Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, who founded the Trinity Long Room Hub.

"When I got to meet her, she had became fascinated with the idea of trying to keep the North and the South very much open as a concept - that it's incredibly important to keep the two sides open, especially now with Brexit coming and all the other problems," explains Lady Dufferin.

"She was passionate about this and I was equally passionate and helped her. The first thing we set up was this link between Trinity College Dublin and Queen's University Belfast, and we ran a conference here where we had students and professors from the two universities."

Then Lady Dufferin mooted the idea of linking up with the Aspects Festival in Bangor.

"We gingerly rang up (Ards and North Down Council arts officer Patricia Hamilton), who was absolutely thrilled by the idea and welcomed us open-armed and that was how we linked up," she says.

"So Jane and Patricia together work out what they're trying to do and the idea is to bring Clandeboye and all our facilities to help in the same way, so that we can all be in the same family."

Lady Dufferin insists she's not a public figure, but her story is more than a little celebrity-studded.

She was born Serena Belinda Rosemary Guinness (or Lindy), the daughter of financier Loel Guinness and his second wife, Lady Isabel, at a Scottish airport.

Her father was group captain of a squadron stationed at Prestwick, and is said to have declared that his heavily pregnant wife should have her child there.

"He said the birth should take place at the airport to cheer everyone up. New life in the middle of the war, you know," Lady Dufferin is quoted as saying.

She grew up in Belvoir Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Rutland, but when she was nine her parents divorced and both remarried. She would later winter with her father and stepmother in Palm Beach, where Truman Capote was also a house guest: "Oh, he was a famous court jester - he had a brilliant mind, a slanting approach to life."

As a girl she was a protégée of Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant and went on to study painting under Oscar Kokoschka.

In 1964, she married her fourth cousin Sheridan, Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, at Westminster Abbey in a ceremony attended by Princess Margaret. A fellow art enthusiast, Sheridan opened a gallery in London, showing Anthony Caro and David Hockney, whom Lady Dufferin has described as "absolutely enchanting".

When she launched her famous Clandeboye Estate yoghurt, which features her painting of her cows on the packaging, she was ridiculed by the press after confessing she had never been inside a supermarket, but Hockney was quick to ring up after reading the story.

He's reported to have commented: "I don't believe I have ever laughed so much in my life."

Lady Dufferin tells me of a childhood encounter with underwater pioneer Jacques Cousteau when she was visiting Antibes in France with her father.

"My father was very interested in boats and technical things. So we were in the harbour and suddenly there was a sort of gurgle and an enormous man appeared, covered in weird-looking equipment. He was covered in this suit and he had pipes sticking out everywhere," she says.

"Anyhow, my father, being fascinated by gadgets, sort of heaved this man out and this absolutely charming young man was inside the suit and they got talking. He was this very early diver and in those days nobody had ever heard of him - he was called Jacques Cousteau.

"It was just after the war and my father befriended him and financed him and got the sister ship to the one he had.

"The one I was brought up on was called Calisto, and the one he got for Cousteau was called Calypso.

"I used to have to go down in little tiny aqualungs - I got let down on a rope - so my early life was underwater.

"About 10 years later my father was in his office in Paris and then Cousteau, who was really becoming jolly famous, just walked in and put five tins on my desk and said 'Loel, those are yours - I have no idea whether they're going to become a success or not, but they're yours.'

"And it was The Silent World, which became a great film all over the world."

Notoriously private, Lady Dufferin is reluctant to dig through the past. Asked where she grew up, she says "Many, many places - I'm very internationally brought up", adding: "Well, I'm not going to paddle into that world - I think better not. I mean, it gets too long."

When she first came to Clandeboye as a young bride of 21, she describes her reaction to the first sight of the 2,000-acre estate as "sheer shock".

"But I'd been brought up in a lot of wonderful houses, so it wasn't so surprising. It was like a castle. It was pre-Troubles, remember. It was so long ago," she says.

"It was just after the war. It was a very different world, you know, in the late '50s. People were getting over the problems of the last war and we were almost starting our Troubles here. It was very gloomy, you know, in Northern Ireland.

"I used to come here a lot, but I was also in London - it was about half and half. I was too young to be too worried about the Troubles, I think."

A late Georgian country house, Clandeboye dates back to 1801, and was transformed by the first Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Sheridan's great-grandfather.

A friend of Queen Victoria and a renowned diplomat who became Governor-General of Canada and Viceroy of India, Frederick was an avid collector, and many of his treasures are still there, including stuffed baby bears, Indian cut-throat weapons, ornate Burmese day-beds, an Egyptian altar-piece, a tiger-skin rug and a pair of narwhal tusks.

When her beloved husband, Sheridan, died in 1988, he bequeathed the estate to her.

The couple had no children, and since then she has worked tirelessly to manage the estate so that the community can benefit from the resource on its doorstep, whether through open days, charitable support or hosting events like the Camerata Festival, which showcases young musicians.

A keen conservationist, ever since the 1980s she has been supporting the Conservation Volunteers (now TCV), inviting the cross-community environmental group to open its first Northern Ireland branch on the estate.

Over the years TCV has grown 18 million trees in Clandeboye's walled garden and planted them far and wide across Northern Ireland.

Lady Dufferin also champions the forest schools concept, a way of using nature to deliver the schools curriculum.

Northern Ireland Forest Schools Association is setting up the region's first Forest School Academy at Clandeboye Estate, hosting a working Forest School after-school club, all very much in line with the Reading Party theme of 'Learning Without Walls' next weekend.

"The whole idea is to try and get actual teachers to become enthusiastic about letting nature be the teacher with them being the guide," Lady Dufferin says.

"If you take a poem by Seamus Heaney which is on the curriculum, you will always find situations to do with the earth, to do with emotions, to do with the wind, to do with history.

"All that is actually in the environment - it isn't in a classroom.

"So to think that your child can go out and learn about Seamus Heaney's poems actually by smelling the earth or digging something or picking up a potato, think what that will mean to a child when they go back to write their essay. If you've actually held a potato or dug a potato up, you've got something to write about.

"If you're nine years old and you've never done anything like that and you're reading a Seamus Heaney poem, you'd have to be a genius to imagine what it's like to dig up a potato.

"I think you could do it for every single subject. For instance, if you're studying conversion of energy, what better way than to go up to the cow shed and learn all about how we make all our electricity?

"I think it's terribly important that we all realise that we're very much of the animal world. We must never forget it. We're not robots - we're human beings, animals, and we're part of nature.

"I'm simply saying I have the most wonderful place - can we not find wonderful ways that children can enjoy it with their teachers?"

Lady Dufferin has always been fascinated by painting, but she took it up more seriously in later life, exhibiting locally and in London. While her favourite subjects are nature and her cows, she once painted the Rev Ian Paisley, pictured robed and wearing a bright tie with flags and the word 'No' written on it. The painting is thought to be in the ownership of the Ulster Museum.

"All of us find ways to find some kind of order in life - whether it's gardening or reading. It might be doing up your house beautifully, or bringing your children up, or cooking... some people play music, other people paint," she says.

"My talk (at the reading party) is sort of Lindy Guinness talking to Lady Dufferin. It's this idea that we all have two sides to our nature and one side is very creative and the other side has to be very practical. And we all have private lives, you know, everyone in this room has private aspirations and dreams and worries. Then you have a front persona that we all see and we sort of hint at what the other is, but you don't really know what people are thinking.

"I'm really fascinated in this idea that when you grow up it's terribly important to keep the creative angle of one's life open in some way. It's so easy to shut it down.

"I think the problem of technology is that it's removing the creative area where people chat and sit and do nothing and look at each other and fiddle about in the garden together and just be creative together.

"And it's going because everyone sits and watches these things (gesturing to her phone). It's very, very dangerous what's happening.

"You've got to get people back to being part of nature, and painting is my way of satisfying that creative aspect of my nature.

"Because I enjoy it so much, it comes out in my ordinary life and it means that I can do more and be more loving to somebody. While if I'm just being loving to that person I'll expect them to love me back in no time and there'll be terrible confusion and it could be very unhappy - while you can let out all your emotion through painting or writing or music and it can percolate into the other side of you so that you become a more balanced human being. How about that?"

Lady Dufferin thinks of Clandeboye and the Holywood Hills as the left and right lung in a human.

"So we're the two lungs for Belfast, Newtownards, Bangor, Holywood - we're sort of breathing here in the middle," she says.

"Absolutely everyone is trying to get me to open it up and put in roads and parks and public spaces, but I think you mustn't do that. When you come here, it's very precious -it's a wonderful event and you are aware how lucky you are.

"You mustn't make it so that anyone can do it with buses and people on walkie talkies shooting in every direction - and then you're just back to being Lady Dufferin all the time and then you've forgotten your Lindy Guinness and you don't play anymore and you become sadder and sadder and sadder, and then you're at the mercy of these horrible things (smartphones) and then you go down into a sort of IT grave."

I ask if she ever feels she's wasting her time trying to get people to reconnect with nature.

"No, absolutely not. It would be a waste of time to think of it as a waste of time actually," she says.

"You have absolutely no idea how you are helping people really.

"All you can do is offer the possibility - and this is what is so remarkable about Aspects and what they do in Bangor. They're offering children, old people, young people, women, happy people, sad people, every kind of human being, the possibility of them enjoying the arts.

"And you don't know how it's going to help. You have some housewife who's never thought of it before and goes to a creative event and suddenly it's done it.

"I don't think you can measure the value of it - all you can do is keep offering and keep a place that is magic. That's what I love about Clandeboye - it's a very magical place.

"The reason it's wonderful is that there are no signs. Animals are allowed to live here. It's not a park - its a sanctuary for animals and mystery and magic."

Lady Dufferin thinks about the future of Clandeboye every day.

"We all do, So we're hoping to make it into a wonderful Dufferin Foundation, a place of educational excellence. It is to do with being creative - without something like nature around us you can't be creative. You need this matrix to create things," she explains.

And part of that ethos, she adds, is in tribute to her late husband, who was passionately about the environment.

"He loved the woods - he was a terrific person for the woods. And he loved the whole ethos of Clandeboye very much. I'm doing all this in his memory."

Month-long celebration of all facets of literature
Aspects Festival, Northern Ireland's longest running literature festival, returns to Bangor next month.

Running from September 1 to 30, it celebrates writing, from poetry to prose, theatre to crime, journalism to wellbeing, and drama to the visual arts.

The programme commences on Saturday, September1 at Clandeboye Estate when Lady Dufferin will give a talk reflecting on the environment and how the landscape of the estate has influenced her as a painter. The talk will begin a weekend of events led by the Clandeboye Reading Party featuring special guest, Sir Bob Salisbury, focusing on topics around biodiversity and the environment.