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me-on-a-kuwaiti-mag-cover copy

I had a very pleasant surprise yesterday when I found out that I was listed by Arabian Business as one of their 100 most powerful Arab women. Admittedly I wasn’t very high up the list — my friend Zaha is at no 4 while I am at no 46. Still, it is top 50! They didn’t have a picture of me so I thought I would post one from way back when I was important enough to grace the cover of a magazine in Kuwait (probably because of my young face; it was when I worked for Sotheby’s and was touring the region trying to promote them…). Now, I don’t really believe in lists, nor awards for that matter — Stephen Frears once explained to me that being short-listed was more important than receiving an award which was often a political decision while being short-listed is based on merit. Anyhow, there is no denying the fact that I was thrilled to be included. Not sure who I have to thank for this but whoever it is, thank you. I am honoured!


birthday picnic-beetroot dip

I always thought I would be dead by the time I was 35. Then I reached that age and thought that I wouldn’t make it past 50. As I approached my 50th year in perfect health, I decided that if I wasn’t going to be buried in a cemetery, I might just as well have a birthday picnic in it except that I never got round to organising it. It took another decade for me to make it happen, almost. It was going to be in Bunhill Fields where Blake, Defoe and Bunyan are buried. A perfect place for a foot in the grave party. I got the necessary permission (there is a garden right by the cemetery) and sent out the invitations. I also asked my lovely friend Amy, who is chef at Chez Panisse, if she would come and cook the picnic with me and she very kindly said yes. As the date approached, I obsessively checked the weather forecast but it was not looking good. So, Zaha, who I have been friends with more or less since I moved to London in 1973, suggested I move the picnic to her stunning gallery. An offer that I was very grateful for and of course accepted. Here are a few photos from what turned out to be a fabulous event, all taken by my very talented young intern, Sophie Minchilli.

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zaha-guangzhou 4 copy

I have been missing Zaha‘s openings recently. Too much work and too much travel. So, when I got my invite for her latest opening of her Guangzhou opera house, I decided to go even if it was very far. And I am happy I did. Apart from my various exciting Chinese adventures, past and future — Beijing is still to come — I was thrilled to finally see one of Zaha’s spectacular buildings in real life.

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