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West End Extra - THE XTRA DIARY
Published: 13 November 2009
Santas take to the West End streets in the build-up to Christmas
Santas in fast lane with a traffic-free day for shoppers

NOT too many kind old gentlemen among these Santas, but that didn’t seem to bother Oxford Street shoppers.
The Mrs Claus parade was held to mark a traffic-free shopping day on the street next month, being branded as “the world’s biggest Christmas shopping day”. Oxford Street and Regent Street will go traffic free on Saturday December 5 for the Shop West End day organised by the retail umbrella group the New West End company.
Council leader Colin Barrow said: “The traffic-free day is a great opportunity for families to visit. The West End is the unrivalled shopping and entertainment capital of Europe and, following the improvements at both Oxford Circus and Marble Arch, there are more exciting developments in the pipeline ahead of 2012 to help ensure its continued success.”

Lights, action…

IT'S that time of year again. Marylebone will fall under a blanket of snow, Santa will dust off his sleigh and the sweet sounds of carol singers will ring out across Regent’s Park and beyond.
On Wednesday, it will be the turn of Marylebone High Street to get the Christmas lights treatment. As well as the grandstand main event there will be carols from local schools, enough mulled wine to sink a clipper and plenty of entertainment for the children. The popular cabbages and frocks market will be running a special Christmas market in the grounds of St Marylebone Parish Church. The lights event at 4pm is organised by landlords The Howard De Walden Estate.

Armistice Day sees artwork under hammer

ON Armistice Day afternoon this week a small cut brass sculpture came under the hammer at Sotheby’s London, a stark reminder that its creator had died in 1915 on the Western Front aged just 23.
Fish, just two inches in length and designed to be handled and carried around in the pocket, was expected to reach up to £12,000 but sold for £37,250 on Wednesday.
It was the work of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and made in response to a request by the writer TE Hulme for such portable pieces. Very rare, it came to auction through the family of Ethel Kibblewhite, whose Frith Street, Soho home was a regular meeting place for leading artists, poets and politicians of the day.
It is believed she was given the piece by Gaudier and it was one of the last works he produced before leaving for the war.
Dr Richard Cork, curator of the Royal Academy’s current exhibition Wild Thing, which features major works by Gaudier, as well as Jacob Epstein and Eric Gill, has described the French artist as “…one of the most inventive, forward-looking sculptors anywhere in Europe”.
The mechanistic abstraction of Fish is echoed in Gaudier’s larger works, including Bird Swallowing a Fish, which features in the RA show.

Bianca’s sauce was a family secret

FORGET fancy restaurants, mum’s cooking is always the best.
Which is why one Covent Garden restaurant manager has flown his mother all the way from Naples to inject his menu with a bit of home-spun magic.
Bianca La Montagna (with a name like that, how you could you not be a good cook), 66, has spent a week at Rossopomodoro in Monmouth Street teaching chefs how to cook her special ragu. Sounds expensive, but then such recipe theft is no small matter among chefs. Heaven forbid anyone got a whiff of her sauce on the way over. We are told it involves San Marzano tomatoes and Sorrento olive oil. So scared is she of ragu racketeering, Bianca wouldn’t speak to Diary. Her son, Simone Falco, said: “I was delighted when my mother allowed us to use the recipe. I’ve been enjoying this dish all my life and up until now the family has kept the recipe a closely guarded secret.”

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