8.25am finds me queuing outside the Russian visa office in Clerkenwell. We are going to Russia at the end of next week and the office only reopened on Monday after a two-week break for Russian Christmas. The red tape is intimidating: a long and detailed questionnaire meticulously filled out in advance; the required passport photo ­­(in a special size, of course) with not even a hint of a smile permitted (I look grim); and fingerprints.

My early start pays off. The doors open at 8.30am precisely and I am over and out in 45 minutes. As I leave, I see at least 50 people with a long wait ahead of them and no distraction other than a large photograph of a Russian motorway at the counter.

As it’s still early, I head to Covent Garden and the Monmouth Street coffee shop, where I always buy my coffee. It has a variety of unusual blends from small estates all over the coffee-growing world. We like ours strong but not acidic. The assistants are knowledgeable and helpful and always seem cheerful and happy. If that is the effect of large amounts of caffeine, we should increase our intake.

They recommend Fazenda do Serrado (“dark chocolate and hazelnuts with low acidity and full body”) from Brazil, and Finca La Bolsa (“cocoa and berries with low-to-medium acidity and full body”) from Guatemala. Not familiar with either, I buy both.

Round the corner in Shorts Gardens is the Neal’s Yard Dairy. I don’t have a sweet tooth but I love cheese and buy a wedge of Isle of Mull cheddar and something called Baron Bigod (I like the name), a Suffolk Brie de Meaux-style cheese. I am offered lots of tasters but it’s too early in the day.

Having been out every night this week, we haven’t made plans for Saturday but I want to see The Scottsboro Boys at the Garrick Theatre. Friends keep telling me it’s fabulous, the best thing they’ve seen in ages, so I book tickets.

On the way to Sotheby’s I cut through Cecil Court, a rare pocket of London to have escaped a developer’s hatchet and home to small, independent bookshops. I am in a rush (as always) so no time for browsing but I like the look of two in particular, The Witch Ball and Tenderbooks.

Back at the galleries it’s busy. I receive many enquiries from clients interested in particular pieces. An art group come in and ask if I will show them around.

Dinner is at Clarke’s with Tricia and Richard to discuss our trip to India in February; we are all excited. We sit in the Freud Room, where it’s more intimate and we can talk. Sally is here; she works so hard, is a real perfectionist and so nice. The food is delicious, everything tastes fresh and full of delicate flavour.

We all want an early night and as we say goodnight, we realise that when we next meet, it will be in Mumbai.



Originally posted on the FT – How to Spend It website

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