Monday, 1 April 2013

Venetia Stanley-Smith - the bobo version of Martha Stewart

My last post was about my frenemy Martha Stewart.

I was told by an old friend of mine who kindly commented that there was a show called Whatever Martha.  This show is about two women, one of them being Martha's daughter, Alexis Stewart making fun of Martha's old shows.  My YouTube was rather busy and I was entertained in bed while fighting this cold weather.

Here is an example of a show  - click here to view.

Now after watching or reading Martha, I will be honest and say that nothing changes in my life.
I can barely do the dishes let alone tackle a Martha project.

As some of you know, I have just gotten back after several weeks in Southeast Asia and I am still a bit jet-lagged.  Actually, it is a bit more than jet-lagged, I don't feel like I am all here yet.

My theory is that although not as drastic as riding a Concorde or space shuttle, the human body isn't meant to have traveled so fast, therefore some molecules just hasn't caught up to London yet.

Sounds a bit kooky I know but let me Google some mathematical formula that eventually proves this some other time.

While I was away, I was exposed to CNN and other generically polite news channels, NHK world being one of them.

I had the chance to catch up with a show I haven't seen in a while and enjoyed viewing immensely and wanted to share with you.
Image via NHK
If you haven't seen it yet, I can not recommend At Home with Venetia in Kyoto highly enough.

Before I waste anyone's time, I must preface that this is the type of show that would be on BBC4.

So if you don't like BBC4, then there is no point reading on further.

This show features Venetia Stanley-Smith, a British woman who moved to Japan thirty years ago.

She teaches English in her own academy but also has published books about herbs and gardens in Japan and unfortunately for most of us, in Japanese.

Her show is about her expertise as a herbalist and her housekeeping and garden tips as illustrated through her traditional Japanese 100 year old home in the outskirts of Kyoto, Japan.
Image via NHK
Each show features the changes in her garden and an aspect of her home whether it is a recipe for dinner, a rosemary shampoo, or a special paste for her woodwork.  They film the Japanese countryside and name the plants in either plain English or the Latin names which for a very amateur is educational.  

Her garden that took 6 six years of cultivation won the Japan National Garden competition in 2002.
Via Japan Times
I will admit that the photos don't do it justice.

You see, it would be like putting a picture of my funniest friend 
on here and saying, 
"See how funny my friend is?? Just look. Hilarious!"

It doesn't work.  It comes alive with her guiding you and in movement on the show.

She does all the right things: lives seasonally, organically, and promotes local craft and produce.

She is the earthier, eco-friendly, and hippie version of Martha.
Via yestijasmine.blogspot
She has a simple but the most coziest home. I do not exaggerate when I say that her home is one of the houses I lust after.  
If I could, I would be Russian oligarch obnoxious and give her ten times what it is worth and kick her out but then pay her to tend to the house and garden.

I have been trying to analyze what it is about her house and garden that I am trying to imbibe.

I concluded that it must be the time, energy and love spent.

It is the peace that it must have brought and something that one can literally not buy.

I must be an architectural soul vampire - only way to describe it.

And now you know way too much about me...

Via NHK
Ironically, I don't even have this carnivorous (are bricks meat?) urge to devour her family seat of Kedleston Hall.
Via National Trust.org
She is the epitome of bourgeois boheme.
Parisians say "bobo"- like "bcbg" for bon chic, bon genre.

You see, she is a bit of posh girl but went to live in India for a while in an ashram and left the conventional life in Britain. 
Her father was a seemingly cookie cutter Etonian and her mother was the granddaughter of Lord Curzon, a Viceroy of India.  
Her family have lived in the same grounds since 1297 

The film "The Duchess" was filmed here for those of you who may recognize the estate.
Via National Trust
It has a hall designed by the architect Robert Adam.
Via National Trust
The south side of the house and the gardens were also designed by the architect.
Via National Trust 
The house was built as it looks now in 1765.
It has a special curved hall hanging family portraits. 
Her family are nesters for sure.
Via National Trust
Lovely bedroom.  Try dusting on top of the bed frame...
Via National Trust
But I admit I do adore the library.
Via National Trust
But mind you, I have tastes for libraries what men have for breasts ; I am not too picky and love most kinds.

She doesn't do the whole pre-prison Martha that exuded "Don't I have the perfect life" ethos - Venetia is quite candid about her own life.

She wrote about her daughter's schizophrenia and having to raise her grandson, albeit in a very British matter of fact way.
She writes about her family and life on monthly updates on her blog.

She is honest to say that her privileged background didn't bring that supposed happiness and while I don't know of her finances, she does prove that money is not the main ingredient in a home.

Case in point. Oprah's house.
Via Glamour magazine UK
I don't know if some of you remember her now defunct home decor magazine that was called O at Home.

Her home in Santa Barbara was featured and even though 
I know it cost about a hundred million dollars - 
not an inch of me wanted to move in.  
I might have gone for a Sunday open house tour but house envy? Not one iota.

I was relieved when in her latest issue of O Magazine, she admitted the lack of style and warmth in her own house without me outing her seeming like a right bitch. ( Although I can be...)
Via O April 2013

I mean - look at this hallway.  
It is so "Real Housewives of some U.S. metropolitan city."
Via O Magazine April 2013
You expect her to come down in those stairs in furry kitten heels to confront the maid trying to seduce her husband.

Then look at this.
Via O Magazine April 2013
I don't know who her painter/decorator is - but have you ever, ever seen such walls painted with less soul.  It is the most one dimensional wall I have ever come across.  It was not only in the yellow paint of her hall but also in this apricot room.

This is Oprah's private library.
But she does admit that the library just doesn't work.
Via O Magazine April 2013
But I have never come across a library that I would not feel at home in but there is always a first.

So this illustrates that ostentation, money, and access to the best decorators in the world does not produce a covetable home.  
Not that making a home covetable is the aim...
But a house that you would love to live in.
Via NHK
Venetia's home does that to me.

When you watch her show, she demonstrates a recipe, a house or garden keeping tip which is in Japanese.  
( The show is mostly subtitled I must warn you.) 
But then she does an essay in English in her unique accent that has been indented with Japanese clipped endings and a haiku rhythm.
Don't worry - she is not kumbaya at all.
I always feel so much peace when I watch this show - 
once I get past the hostile urge to take over her house.

She seems so content weeding her garden and collecting seeds for the following year to share with her friends.  She doesn't have any of the frenzy to live a perfect life, she imparts a genuine stillness that is infectious.

If you don't mind subtitles and a slower edit, I encourage you to watch her on YouTube if you don't have access to NHK and enjoy not only her life but also as a means to enjoy Japanese culture.

This episode is a nice opener - I won't take it personally if you don't like her.  I can imagine some of you clicking off. 
But for those of you who want to passively meditate and 
want a tele-visual, informative poem, this is your show.







56 comments:

  1. Oh yes, thanks for the introduction. It seems like a very tranquil life - I'll enjoy watching these shows. I much prefer her outlook and personality to Martha's - she definitely seems more genuine.

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    1. Oh yes, it is tranquil. I do hope you enjoy it from time to time with a nice cuppa! I have a less complicated relationship with Venetia.

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  2. "architectural soul vampire" Absolutely hilarious! I'll definitely look out for this show, I love watching calming things like that and anything about baking. The exterior of Oprah's house is horrendous, so overdone, I think she copied the decor of the old Hotel Bel Air, I used to see her a lot there and it was her favourite hotel, the peach and celadon was great in their suites but no, not really her.

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    1. She doesn't bake so much but she does do everything with such intention in the way one bakes I suppose.

      I now see the corelation with the Bel Air - you are right that she loved the hotel so much - she poached their head concierge to be her private Montecito concierge...

      I would love to go to the refurbished Bel Air and have a look - I heard it is amazing - apparently a million dollars spent per room or something just as exorbitant!

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    2. Venetia probably doesn't bake because Japanese ovens don't sell well. Most make do with toaster ovens for baking chores, which are inadequate for cakes and pies.
      What you don't know about Venetia is that she is quite the opposite of what she appears in the show. Much like Martha Stewart. She owns not one English school but several. She also has another business enterprise but I forget it's purpose. (I'm old and forgetful..) You know about her TV show and book publishing, so what about all this would make one think she has a restful, quiet life? I've been watching her shows for several years now and have come to the conclusion she is actually not very authentic. That the craftspeople featured on each show are recruited, not her friends, and that she is more than likely authoritarian and quite businesslike in her daily life, which equates to her being in pursuit of money just like most of you. (I leave myself out of that equation because I have enough money.)
      I'm not an expat, but my Japan born wife and I have a second home in Habikino City. I've been early retired since 1996, from the transportation industry in the U.S. and I first came to Japan in August 1961, as a member of the U.S. Navy. My wife and I married in 1965. I don't read much Japanese Kanji, but am fluent enough to get around easily in Japan. In my experience Japanese don't readily allow you into their lives. Even my in-laws, with three or four exceptions, lead lives unknown to us. I suspect Venetia has a very adept Japanese production crew at NHK which creates the illusion that Venetia is an integral part of her community, for which she probably doesn't really have time.

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    3. Well I have never met her and I go by my gut instincts and follow my own esoteric hunches.

      She comes from a very well connected and very posh family in the UK that could have easily allowed her a life of privilege ( of course that doesn't necessarily equate to wealth). So for her to go to Japan and have businesses doesn't make her not have an authentic life. In fact, some of the most capitalistic people and greediest people I know are those completely broke so I wouldn't judge someone by their business pursuits. But I appreciate your opinion and you have qualified in a fair and articulate manner that was very interesting to read so thank you.

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    4. I'm just happy to have discovered Venetia's NHK program! I have to admit I suspected she had money from somewhere and therefore wasn't surprised when she showed her ancestral home on one of her shows. Still, I find the show to be relaxing, informative and an altogether lovely escape from my daily grind. Glad to have found your blog, too!

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    5. Only someone who has maxed out on luxury could live so sparsely!! hehe. But seriously I also like her restful quality and I feel like I have been to a spa after I watch her show. Lovely to have you here Victoria!

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  3. Love a good library too, couldn't live without books! And sometimes I think we leave a little piece of our soul in a place, like you said you haven't really fully returned to London yet. Have it delivered:) xo Caroline

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    1. You are right Caroline - must ring Fedex to retrieve the rest of me :) x

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  4. I am a little frightened that you likened my Easter eggs to something Martha would have hatched given your "issues" with her, but I know that u & I are soul mates so I will think it is the "good side" of MS that you are comparing to MSH...that being out of the way. I love this post.
    I will need to quote you soon.."time, energy & love spent"...YES YES YES that is what makes a home special & covet-able. I will need to watch this show for many reasons, not the least of which is to find out what bamboo & humans do have in common..invasiveness is my only guess? We do tend to "take over"....hmmmm?
    xo,
    Kelly
    www.mysoulfulhome.com

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    1. Dont be scared! I only meant the great way ;)
      I think part of my fascination with her is that I have 5% of that mania but the rest of me would rather chillax. I have not done anything crafty since high school.

      Good observation about bamboos and humans!! Weed out the aggressive ones right? xx

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  5. Wow venetia's show is amazing very poignant in that distinct Japanese way. Loved! -robyn

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    1. Glad you liked Robyn! It is very British and very Japanese all at once. I watch when I need to destress...

      Loved your tip about Whatever Martha - her daughter makes me laugh! x

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    2. Glad u like it cracks me up. Funny how dry and irreverent Martha's daughter is. I believe that's the daughter who opted to wed at the courthouse. My current show obs -- call the midwife. Leave it to the Brits to do storytelling so well!

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  6. Well you suggested not to continue reading if you don't like BBC 4 shows and I don't, but I was still intrigued to find out what you had to say. I guess the difference between Venetia and Oprah is that Oprah doesn't proclaim to be skilled at 'housekeeping', but she is a damn good business woman. Oprah appears to just not have invested her money in a very good interior designer.

    Out of interest, without sounding presumptuous about your financial situation, if you were a millionaire would you hire an interior decorator or prefer to decorate/design all by yourself?

    I won't tell you whose home I aspire to live in! You'd think me very shallow, and no, like you it's not Oprah's!

    xx

    http://forcailini.blogspot.com

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    1. I appreciate that we can be so different in taste but the weird thing is that I really like your style and that is what is important! lol ;)

      I guess with Oprah - the thing is I was a superfan and so I followed her career - she actually put a lot of time into this house...and it shows that some people just have that x factor - like with clothes right? some people throw things together and looks amazing and some wear a chanel suit with such awkwardness.

      But good question...I will say that more due to my personality, I would choose things myself. I might court a designer and have lunch and do a one off major consultation with them but ultimately I would choose myself. Having said that, one project I was so stressed that I got the builder to choose the kitchen tiles!! That will be another post where I expand on details.

      Please do share whose home you love??? Am curious now! xx

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    2. You are so right about us all having different tastes and sometimes the good thing about that is the fact that it opens your eyes to new things. For example I would have never considered Hanoi before reading your posts......

      oooh okay if I must share my ideal home - well if it was an apartment.....oh I can't tell you.....

      oookay, so if it was an apartment, it would be Mariah Carey's (it appeared on cribs a good few years back) and if it was a house......Kris Jenner's. I'm afraid I love contemporary and if I had the money I would be likely to hire an interior designer to deck it out and then add my little bits after!

      There I said it! eeek xx

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    3. I like her flat! I saw it in I think it was AD or Elle decor and I remember her closet was really nice and out of all the celebs she has the best closet. Can't remember the other details tho. Kris Jenner? Is that kk's mum? I have to google her house.

      But no eek! You are so funny - but the question is do you have a stylist??

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    4. Yes yes yes - it was the closet that swayed me, best I've seen too ha ha! Yeah KK's mum, not sure you will like it but I just love the layout, the decor and unlike many celeb houses, it looks like a home!

      Just answered your question about the stylist over at cailini x

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  7. What an epic post! I found myself nodding through the entire thing. I'm totally going to check out this show. I travel a lot and discovering design/lifestyle shows abroad is one of the best parts. Thanks also for the thought-provoking comment on my blog today!

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    1. Hello, thanks for coming by and glad you might have discovered a new show that you is really quite lovely - I have been reading your blog for years by the way so it is a bit surreal having you here! :)

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  8. Love this post N. Very interested about the Japanese Martha, shall have to watch her show. I have come to the conclusion from visiting houses that had money lavished on them, that it is not about the money at all. I have an Architect friend, who has very little money, but loads of style. Her home always feels calm and welcoming. For one thing it is spotlessly clean with no visible clutter, and she does lots of cheap things like have burning candles, jugs with greenery from her garden around the place. On the flip side, I once (think I blogged about this) had to go to an apartment in Mayfair that was owned by a very wealthy American Heiress for her trips to London from New York. My role was to measure up for new lampshades, as she was offended by the unmatched ones in the existing rooms. I walked into a Colefax and Fowler advertisement. Every square inch covered in perfectly matched fabrics and wallpapers. It was completely boring and drab and lifeless. Quite impersonal, like a bland boutique hotel. Oprah's place is a bit like that as well. I'd have fired the Interior Decorator. The library looks completely wrong painted white. It should be dark and moody. And frankly, why do you need a house that size for two people and a few dogs? She's making a statement in the house, that's for sure.
    I went to Kedleston Hall around 14 years ago - loved it, so beautiful.

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    1. Hi Heidi,

      Hope you enjoy the show - have a feeling you might like to watch it when one is in a certain mood especially..

      You should do a house tour of your friend's place if she allows it? I love looking at houses anyway but love it when people somehow produce a home that is so comfy.

      I went and looked up that post and it was great! loved it actually and the stuff about color matching beforehand.

      I must go to Kedleston Hall and check it out - It looks amazing and I loved the book the Duchess ( that is a bit of reach to the film but still ) and I want to see where Venetia was born! xx

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    2. You should definitely get up to Derbyshire one weekend to Keddleston- you should see the amazing gowns that Lady Curzon wore as Vicerene of India. Exquisite beading, truly, truly breathtaking (I seem to remember that they had them on display in the former servants hall downstairs). The decorator I worked for on that C & F lampshade redo was married to one of the three Curzon sister's sons strangely enough. xx

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  9. Oh what a tangled web we weave! So Venetia's cousin's wife?

    I am even more excited to go up there - architecture, gardens, beading - great day out for me but not so much for M CSW! x

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  10. Thank you for sharing<3

    http://everythingsalwayssunny.com
    Kristin
    xx

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  11. very beautiful pictures dear !
    http://www.melolimparfaite.com

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  12. I used to watch Whatever Martha religiously. It makes me sad that Jennifer and Alexis aren't friends anymore. :(

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    1. Hi Jenni,

      I didn't know this but I googled it and it all seems a bit odd...It is a pity bc I only just discovered it!

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    2. Oh - this is VERY interesting! Do we think Alexis may have the tendency to burn bridges as her momma?

      She has tried so hard to not be her Mother's Daughter.

      I was amused by their show when I "caught" it - and it was all set up and ok'd by Martha! I find Martha inspirational as she presents the info gathered and created by her teams (surely she ran out of original material years ago). I would never begrudge her the wealth she has accrued as there are 100's of people who have benefitted from her collecting, designing, writing, and run-ins with the law.

      Your post got me at boobs and libraries! I will find time to visit Japan's Martha, sounds like my speed.

      Do the "Ground Force" people still do television in the UK? Is that an example of BBC4 too? None the less I really miss them!

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    3. Alexis is not a figure here at all - even Martha is not that famous in the UK!

      Yes Linda, please do visit her when you are drinking a lovely cup of tea...

      No Ground Force is not on except for reruns! The BBC have stopped any programes like that since the property crash.
      But Ground Force I recall would have been BBC2. So popular but not numero uno! BBC4 is now doing more architectural history which is soooo good - I think you would love it - if you get BBC i player have a look around.

      Yes boobs and libraries. But it's true - I loooove libraries! :)

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  13. Nice pics!!! The place seems stuniing!
    Gloria xxx

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  14. You are so knowledgeable! Every day is a school day when I read your blog xx

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    1. Oh Sian, not really. I just watch loads of TV! But don't worry, no pop quiz today :) x

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  15. Oooh, great recommendation! I've been looking for less stupid shows to watch, so this will be perfect. Maybe my husband will even watch it!

    P.S. I completely agree with Sian! I love that about you.

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    1. I think you will like it Danie - it is calming and you can watch before you get creative. Thanks so much Danie - too kind x

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  16. Yay!!... love recommendations for new shows too and this one sounds just my cup of tea!!

    I just have to say that you write extraordinarily well!!... such a quick, humorous style... confident and engaging. I am finding that I still struggle writing to nobody in particular - which one does, I suppose when blogging. I am trying to relax more!!! I have to get up and do dinner now :(... but am jobbing back here to read more asap! xx

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    1. Hello Jenny - so nice of you to come visit - especially when you have so much on right now!
      I had the same issue when I started a few months ago until my friend who lives in another country told me that my posts were like having a cup of morning coffee at a cafe where I would just talk about the topic du jour so now I approach it like an open letter to friends :) Thanks for your kind words xx

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  17. I discovered your blog when I googled Venetia - other way round this time!
    Nice blog, interesting recommendations, thank you!
    Stefanie from Germany

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    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for dropping by and taking the time to write! Always nice to hear from readers :)

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  18. Hi there!
    You can actually watch At Home with Venetia in Kyoto on NHK World.
    If you don't have NHK World on TV/Cable you can watch a live stream on it's website, http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/ (or just Google NHK World)
    The live stream is on the top right of the homepage
    The whole website is in English. Their TV Schedule even has options for different timezones.

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    1. Thanks for that! That is really useful for not just me but most people who are curious - :)

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  19. Hello there, I just found your blog and love it. I am very familiar with Venetia's show and I watch it whenever it is on the Japanese station I watch here in California. She reminds me of Kiki's witch mom in the anime film "Kiki's Delivery Service" (in a very good way!) especially when she is working in her kitchen. I am always deeply moved and inspired by Venetia when I watch her shows and you don't have to be very domestic to come away with great appreciation for how she lives. One gets the feeling that she has signed off on her patrician upbringing and I admire that.

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    1. Hello! I haven't watched that anime or perhaps I have but in Korean so it has a different title? They don't show Venetia here even though she is British and would do so well with the local audience. I also have a huge respect for her - I hope you do read her monthly blog as well? She is quite honest and forthright. I admire her so much as well. Thanks for commenting - always lovely to hear everyone's views whether or not they agree with me or not! :)

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  20. I often watch her show and I culdn't agree more about the views after reading your blog !

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    1. I need to get her latest shows on DVD or NHK somehow. I wish CNN or another major network would commission her to do a show especially on British lifestyle and cultural matters!

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  21. Thanks for an interesting article :) I found your blog after watching Venetia's weekly ep just earlier, I've been watching nhk for at least two years on my old iPad via tvcatchup app. I prefer Begin Japanology but do enjoy popping in to nhk's many short progs seeing more of Japan as a disabled tourist :)

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Thanks for alerting me that she is back on - I don't have a tv so amout of the loop! NHK does a great job and I hope you get to go and see more of Japan in person :)

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  22. My wife is the great great great granddaughter of lord Curzon.

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  23. From the William join Dalton and Betsy side :)

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  24. Hello Anon - I didn't go into Burke's peerage but I do believe you :)

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  25. I'm so glad that you commented positively on this program, I have been watching for several years , since it was recommended to me. The calmness the show brings is infectious, I do wish BBC 4 would buy it, although it could do a lot of good if it was on one of the main channels. Beats country file hands down!
    Thank you for letting more people know about this wonderful lady.

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  26. The present head of The Curzon family, Kedleston

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2299131/From-Palladian-mansion-noble-bloodline-life-tracksuit-seaside-housing-estate-The-epic-decline-fall-viscount-married-vice-girl.html

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/familyfeuds-1254595.html

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Thank you for dropping by!