Great Sport, Great Cause, Great Britain

Team Ettinger writes: For the past year, Ettinger has been proud to be associated with British Polo Day, a series of polo matches between British teams and friends contested in locations around the world.

Polo is believed to have originated in Persia around the fifth century B.C. as a contest between cavalry units; the British (by way of India) are credited with formalising and popularising polo in the mid-nineteenth century. Polo still thrives throughout some of Britain’s oldest institutions, and British Polo Days provide an opportunity for some of the country’s best players to continue to play internationally. The days not only honour the history and traditions of the sport itself, they also celebrate British heritage — selected British luxury brands are represented at each event, giving the guests an unmistakable and unforgettable experience of the very best Britain has to offer. Here at Ettinger, we are very pleased to be featured at the British Polo Days, and are extremely happy that VIP guests receive a special Ettinger gift.

This year, British Polo Days have taken place in China, Singapore, India, France, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Thailand, Germany and, most recently, here in the UK at Coworth Park in Berkshire, which gave us our first chance to experience this thrilling event firsthand. On the day, the weather was windy, cloudy and, unusually for this summer, dry. The theme, Polo for the Brave, was totally appropriate, as this event was a benefit for the British Forces Foundation (BFF) and The Household Cavalry Operational Casualties Fund (HCOCF), two morale-boosting organisations who provide support of all kinds to military personnel.

The action was exciting, the rain held off until all play was completed and everyone, including us, had a tremendous time. Most importantly, this inaugural Polo for the Brave raised more than £40,000 for the BFF and the HCOCF.

Ed Olver, the co-founder and director of British Polo Day, said “It is a privilege to celebrate British craftsmanship and excellence in emerging markets. We are very grateful to all our sponsors who make it possible to project British heritage and identity.” All of us at Ettinger feel privileged to be part of British Polo Days and in the company of so many distinguished British brands.

More information about British Polo Day can be found here: British Polo Day; more about Ed Olver can be found here: Ed Olver.

To learn more about what you can do to help, you can find information about the British Forces Foundation can be found here: British Forces Foundation; and more information about the Household Cavalry Operational Casualties Fund can be found here: Household Cavalry Operational Casualties Fund.

Up and Down in Greece

Robert Ettinger writes: My wife and I love to travel, and one of the places we love to visit the most is Greece. Over the years, we have bicycled on many of the islands; we’ve enjoyed countless days and nights of exploring, eating and drinking; we’ve become friends with numerous locals and fellow visitors. Travelling around Greece, we are endlessly astonished by its hills and roads and coastline. It is truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been following Greece’s distressing economic news for many months now. So when we visited Greece in May, just before their elections, I was especially curious to discover first-hand how this crisis seems to be affecting this place which we are so fond of.

We bicycled around Samos — one of the more historically interesting spots in a region steeped in history. Samos is located in the East Aegean Sea; it was a prominent city-state in ancient times, was a semi-independent state during much of the 19th century, and only became a part of Greece in 1912. Both Pythagoras (best known for a2 + b2 = c2) and Aesop (famous for his fables) were born there. It has been a wine-producing region for centuries, and features lots of local foods and ways of preparing them.

We had previously bicycled around Samos perhaps five or six times; and in many ways, this experience was similar to those visits. The weather was dry and hot, the hills were challenging. But there were some differences.

We began this time in Pythagorio (named for our mathematician/philosopher friend mentioned above), made our way through Samos town, Karlovasi, Kampos and back to Pythagorio. Along the way, we spoke to locals and ex-pats, and the election was very much on everyone’s mind. But it was clear, simply from our informal conversations, that there would be a narrow margin for whoever ultimately won. Many people spoke realistically about the difficult challenges ahead regardless of the political route they would take.

We heard that tourism, the heart of their economy, was down, with 15–20% fewer British and 30–40% fewer Germans at this time of year. We encountered only three other cyclists the entire week, which was certainly unusual. We were told that the car-hire fleet had been reduced by 60% because it was expected fewer cars would be needed.

Looking ahead, I can’t help but be concerned about Greece’s infrastructure and service industry. So much of the economy depends on tourism and the flights arriving and departing in a timely manner; the inter-island ferries (which are heavily subsidised) running as scheduled. We heard, ominously, that a hospital on another island was running out of food to feed its patients.

With the future of Greece so much in the balance, I can only hope that wise heads — among its politicians and its citizens — will prevail. This crisis was years in the making, and it will undoubtedly take years to recover. But I remain hopeful that this beautiful and irresistible country will return to economic health; I know my wife and I are already planning to return in September. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’ve recently visited Greece, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please comment below and let me know your impressions.

Weather or Not

Robert Ettinger writes: I usually take weather forecasts with a pinch of salt, and I am even more sceptical of long-range forecasts. So when I read, several weeks ago, that our record-breaking April rain would stretch into May, I didn’t take it very seriously. As it turned out, they were right. But that still didn’t prepare many of us, I’m sure, for what was to come.

What they referred to as an “unsettled” system was actually some kind of weather yo-yo: bitterly cold and unseasonably warm, all in the same day. Soothing sunshine on your face giving way to the seemingly inevitable rain. A few weeks ago I went outside and took this picture. Is the sky clearing? Are the clouds gathering? Who knows?

Despite the fact that the Met Office seems to be doing well these days, I remained unconvinced when I heard the reports, just over a week ago, that summer weather wouldn’t arrive in the UK until July this year. Although the first half of June certainly supported their claim — and the sky at this moment, as I look out my window, is more grey than glorious — I still have hope that the weather will soon catch up with the calendar.

I have my own weather forecast for the summer: There will be rain, maybe frequently; and there will be sunshine, although it may be fleeting. Even if it happens only once, I’m looking forward to that late summer evening when there’s still a hint of light in the sky and the breeze carries the last warmth of the day.

So, you see, I’m not just a meteorological cynic; I’m a British weather romantic.

I’d love to hear about your experiences of the weather this spring and early summer — maybe a memorable time you had when the weather played a role. Add a comment below and tell me your weather stories.

60 Years in the Making: A Special Whisky for a Special Cause

Robert Ettinger writes: One of the great pleasures of being in this business is the opportunity to meet so many fascinating people all  over  the world. Sometimes, these people visit us here in our showroom on Putney Bridge Road. One of these occasions occurred in early May, when Jonathan Driver of John Walker & Sons stopped by with a special treat.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s accession to the throne, John Walker & Sons created Diamond Jubilee, a blend of rare Scotch whiskies distilled in 1952. John Walker, which was first awarded a Royal Warrant in 1934, enlisted the expertise and skills of more than 60 artisans, including several other Royal Warrant holders, to provide specially made pieces to present and accompany the whisky. I am pleased and honoured that Ettinger was chosen to design and create the leather sleeve to contain the components of a commemorative artefact book. The book, along with the other bespoke elements — a pair of crystal glasses, the crystal and silver base and collar, and the crystal decanter containing the whisky itself — are all housed within a chest made of oak from Sandringham and Caledonian pine from The Queen’s Balmoral Estate.

Sixty editions of the whisky have been made for sale around the world, and the profits are to be donated to the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST). All of us here at Ettinger are proud to be associated with this project and couldn’t be more pleased that it benefits such a worthy cause.

Jim Beveridge, master blender at John Walker & Sons, has described the taste as very vibrant, with a fresh fruity flavour and a smoky finish. Although I haven’t had a chance to sample the Diamond Jubilee whisky myself, I’d like to think that it has a taste of golden honey with a subtle undertone of flowering heather, all of it infused with a hint of peat. I can easily imagine hoisting a dram, toasting the Queen with my family and a few close friends after finishing a sherry trifle at the end of a long and lazy al fresco dinner.

I’d love to hear how you’d like to enjoy tasting this once-in-a-lifetime whisky; please add a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

You can read more about Diamond Jubilee by John Walker & Sons here: Diamond Jubilee Whisky.

You can find more information about the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust here: QEST

I’ll Choose the Best of Times

Robert Ettinger writes: Many might think that pessimism is the order of the day — with headlines describing unimaginable woes around the world, our own economy lumbering along, our weather being more apocalyptic than British — but I can’t help but be upbeat about things.

To be sure, there are many serious issues that have to be dealt with — quickly; but if we take a slightly longer view it’s clear that there are exciting and interesting times ahead.

It’s easy to be cynical about a couple of the big local events coming soon; in fact, it’s probably the default British position to be dismissive about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. But I can’t join the naysayers.

The festivities scheduled throughout the UK the first week of June are as much a celebration of ourselves as a commemoration of the Queen’s 60 years as monarch. I’m especially excited about the pageant on Sunday 3 June; up to 1,000 boats of all kinds from all over the world will move in stately procession along the Thames. The boats will be mustering between Hammersmith and Battersea Bridges, so the view from our windows on Putney Bridge Road is certain to be a spectacular sight — as it will be all along the flotilla route. Similarly, the atmosphere at the Olympics and the achievements of the athletes in the surroundings of one of the great cities of the world will no doubt be exciting at the time and will surely provide many long-lasting memories. I’m especially interested in the cycling road races on 28 and 29 July — not only because I’m an avid cyclist — but also because the racers will be crossing the Thames at Putney Bridge; so once again, the action will nearly be right outside our windows. These two events will offer all of us — Londoners, English, British — a rare double chance to show the world some of the things we do best. So while it may seem very much like the worst of times, it’s quite possible we’re right on the edge of the best of times.
You can find more information about the Pageant here: Diamond Jubilee Pageant; and information about all the Diamond Jubilee festivities here: Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Information about the road race is here: Olympic Cycling Road Race. The general website for the Olympics is here: London 2012 Olympics.

Greetings from Ettinger

Welcome to our blog. We hope you’ll find it interesting, informative, and entertaining, as we share our thoughts and ideas on life, travel, culture, society — anything and everything that sparks our imagination. On occasion, we’ll even mention news about a particular leather goods manufacturer.

You’ll be seeing blog posts from Robert Ettinger, as well as posts from members of Team Ettinger, and we hope you’ll offer your comments, too. We see Thoughts on Life and Leather as an opportunity to communicate with interested people all over the world, and your contributions will be as much a part of this blog as ours.

Like many brand-new things, this is very much a work-in-progress, and we will undoubtedly be tweaking and, hopefully, improving it on an ongoing basis. We hope you’ll help; we very much look forward to hearing from you.