Thursday, 25 June 2015

Waterloo Dinner, 18 June 2015, Warsaw

Click on to enlarge - superior rendition

                            Battle of Waterloo by the Irish artist Willian Sadler (1782?-1839)

As everyone certainly knew, the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo fell on Thursday June 18th and was extensively commemorated throughout Europe, although possibly rather lower key in France. 

In lieu of visiting Belgium (where the battle was re-enacted and the drivers enjoy a deserved reputation) I felt I should moot the idea of a CCC Waterloo Dinner. It was the least we could do in memory of the Iron Duke and his victory over Napoleon. 

The history of Europe may well have been rather different had the outcome of this battle been otherwise. As we also all know it was ‘the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life’. 

Perhaps in Bonapartist Poland sympathies lie in a different direction. He contributed many fine things to the country not least the Code Napoléon legal system. Napoleon was considered a hero, a bulwark against Russia, the embodiment of la gloire. His valiant personal bodyguard known as the Chevaux-Légers Polonais, placed Polish cavalry at very apex of élan, spirit and horsemanship in Europe. Napoleon was considered a military genius to be emulated despite his opportunism towards the country and heartlessness towards the beautiful and loyal Marie Walewska who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of patriotism. 

The Waterloo Dinner was held at the Pod Gigantami Restaurant in Warsaw on the evening of June 18. I felt it appropriate to celebrate the confrontation here of two giants of European history - Wellington and Napoleon. Initially I had thought of the historic Zajazd Napoleonski but it was further out of town.

The House Pod Gigantami ('Under the Giants') where we had the Waterloo Dinner is situated in Ujazdowskie Avenue 24, part of the Royal Way in Warsaw. 
It was built between 1904 and 1907 by Władysław Marconi.  
The original interior  was preserved  during WW II as it had the function of a  
Nazi Officers' Club. 

        Blazej Zulawski arriving at Pod Gigantami  in the Ferrari to be greeted by the Chairman

The dinner was excellent and a convivial atmosphere was quickly established. Some new members of the club were welcomed. 

Not quite this Waterloo Banquet held some time after the victory but we tried!

The Waterloo Banquet 1836 for 83 diners of the military persuasion by British artist 
William Salter (1804-1875)

Rather later than anticipated I began my brief account of the complex preparations and Battle of Waterloo. I shall not go into any detail here. Suffice to say I covered the main elements as they unfolded on the day. 

                                           A rare daguerreotype photograph of the Duke of Wellington at 75

   The Duke of Wellington on 'Copenhagen' by 
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)

Portrait of Napoleon by 
Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)

I find the contrast of these two portraits most instructive in terms of personality and style.

In order to accomplish this in an 'infotainment' manner (not to be overly serious following dinner) I used as a basis of my presentation excerpts from the television play Sharpe's Waterloo based on the novel by Bernard Cornwell.

I began with an account of the famous Duchess of Richmond's Ball.

The Duchess of Richmond's Ball by Robert Alexander Hillingford (1828-1904)

Battle of Ligny 16 June 1815 where Napoleon defeated Field Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher who used this windmill as his headquarters

British artist Ernest Crofts (1847-1911)

Intelligence arrives of the Blücher defeat at the Duchess of Richmond's Ball

I then covered the Battle of Quatre-Bras between Wellington's Anglo-Dutch army and the left wing of the Armée du Nord under Marshal Michael Ney. This battle was fought near the strategic crossroads of Quatre-Bras on 16 June 1815, two days before the Battle of Waterloo. Wellington only just managed to hold Napoleon here and retired to the village of Waterloo. Some months before the actual battle at Waterloo, Wellington had already planned to fight in this location and had had accurate maps of the terrain drawn up beforehand. This pre-planning gave him a distinct advantage.

The 28th Regiment at the Battle of Quatre Bras by the British painter Elizabeth Thompson (1846-1933). She is one of the few female painters to achieve fame through history painting.

 Troop dispositions at Quatre-Bras and Ligny about 3.00 pm on June 18 
(Waterloo by Tim Clayton, London 2014)

Battle of Waterloo: initial dispositions (Waterloo by Tim Clayton, London 2014)

Polish Lancer Unit attacking a British Square at Waterloo 

Factually possibly somewhat fanciful. 
For the Polish contribution to the Battle of Waterloo see:

Waterloo at Close of Day by by Robert Alexander Hillingford (1828-1904)

*  *  *  *  *  *

To the relief of some, our brilliant snapper Blazej Zulawski then gave us a tour of the highlights he photographed at the 2015 Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance

Here are a few photographs of the assembled company at Pod Gigantami late on the night during his presentation

And a small selection of some hundreds of Blazej's photographs we were shown 
(some identification captions to come)

                Polish WW II General Sikorski's magnificent 1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III with coachwork by Vanvooren of Paris

Hundreds more photographs (but not by Blazej) for the dedicated enthusiast of this event can be found at:

The Waterloo Dinner was a rather long but highly enjoyable evening with excellent food, wine and convivial CCC company.

CCC members present at this dinner:

Iain Batty
Ian Booth
Jacek Czeczot-Gawrak
Michael Moran
Michael Motz
Blazej Zulkawski
Guy Pinsent
Michael Wrobel
Jonathan Bowring
Mirek Staniszewski
Artur Gabor
Robert Windmill
Janusz Zawada

Paul Ayre, Paul Blackman, Neil Crook, Erik Hallgren, Edward Mier-Jędrzejowicz, Bill Flint, Michael Kenny sent their apologies.

Ladies present:

Basia Adam
Agata Zawada

Michael Moran (Chairman)

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Fearless Safari in Deepest Mazovia (Mazowsze) Poland 14 June 2015

Click on Photographs for Superior Rendition

On a beautiful early summer Sunday we (14 CCC adults and 7 children) were invited by Jacek Czeczot-Gawrak, one of our CCC members, to his charming country property at Gnojna about 50 kms outside Warsaw. 

Jacek is an eminent art historian who obtained a B.Sc. in the History of Art at Warsaw University and completed his Masters Degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He is the Director of the Polish atelier known as THE STUDIO : Architectural and Interior Design. This studio was created in 1985 as a sister atelier to the main studio founded in the U.K. in 1973 by Lady Sitwell, a member of the distinguished Sitwell family of Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire and an expert in interior design.

          The fine restored residence and CCC Members' cars parked on the manicured lawns

The quite superb and rare concours  XK 150S coupe owned by Janusz Zawada

          Members admiring Paul Blackman's early 1968 MPW Royce Two-Door Convertible 

             A close snap of my 1974 Royce Silver Shadow with CCC member Iain Batty en garde 

             The Austin Healey 100 of Jerzy Bylica and Michael Kenny's MGA 1600

                            1960 Buick Invicta

   1960 Buick Invicta

                            Buick Interior

The happy couple celebrate their 50th Anniversary in Poland 
[1974 Royce Silver Shadow and 1968 MPW Royce Two-Door Convertible]

After a drink and some light snacks we climbed aboard the four classic Land Rovers for the 'Safari' through the forest and the largest privately owned nature park in Poland owned by Jacek. As ever I shall allow the photographs with captions to speak.

Ready to set off

 Jacek thinks as we leave: 'Hope all this works out well and I don't lose a member to those dashed tigers that prowl the lakeside!'

                                                       Jacek and the 'Main Men' Roman and Bogdan 

A casual Guy Pinsent Esq. and family aboard a Land Rover

Jacek somewhat unconvincingly demonstrating the size of  'the lake monster that got away' to a rather skeptical MM

The children loved exploring the virgin forest with screams of delight chasing and catching tiny frogs

                                               Leon in a poetic and reflective mood in the forest

                                                            A frog discovers Hugo!

                     Ula and the Frog (a fairy tale)

                               Our group standing on a prehistoric and slippery tree trunk

After these strenuous exertions and fearless courting of the dangerous carnivorous Polish frogs (not forgetting the wild drive in the Land Rovers over heavy terrain - I kid you not) we assembled for a delicious and well-deserved  al fresco lunch beautifully prepared by Irek Adamczyk. Kabanosy flambé, fish soup, roast wild boar cut from the bone, grilled salmon in a cream of asparagus sauce, various vegetables, dessert cake, coffee. I took a lovely bottle of South African 2011 Rustenberg John X Merriman Stellenbosch red.

Ula tucking into the Kabanosy flambé. A small quantity of spiritus is poured over them and set alight. Delicious!  

The entire adventurous event was brought off with spirit, charm and a panache rarely encountered in Poland. 

And so the CCC members slowly drifted off to their various homes after an excellent day exploring deepest Mazowsze.

 The irrepressible Michael Kenny and his daughter about to depart the film set in his MGA

Michael Moran (Chairman)