Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Now I know that a new decluttering guru is as seductive as a new diet. You always start out by thinking this time it really will work.
This book has pinged into my consciousness over the past few weeks. First of all, a friend mentioned that it was on her Kindle.
And then Lucille mentioned it too. I am deeply shocked. Lucille is the acknowledged expert on what is Useful or Beautiful. Her blog exudes calm and peace. I refuse to believe that Lucille has piles of stuff that require Japanese clutter-therapy.
When you organise your life according to this incredibly easy method, you will, of course, naturally, without a doubt, money-back guarantee, feel more confident, become more successful, lose weight and be transformed into the person etc etc
The book is due back to the library on December 24th. (Couldn't buy it without adding to the clutter, could I?)
Watch this space.
When I've cleared a space, that is.


I have just got to the bit where the author claims to have culled her books down to 30 volumes. I can't imagine living in a house with only 30 books. And I wouldn't like it.

Sunday, 23 November 2014



It could be that I'm the wrong reader because I've never really cared for short stories. They're too short. You can't get engrossed in a short story, or hardly ever. (I make an exception for Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain which is the most perfect short story ever written.)
But I'm eagerly awaiting Hilary Mantel's next Thomas Cromwell instalment next year and so I hoped this might fill the gap, even though some of the stories are several years old. 1993, in one case, and it shows.
Wish I could say that the others are Hilary Mantel at the peak of her powers, but they're not. They seem stagey and contrived and only the first one rang true - about a Pakistani businessman who foists himself as an unwanted visitor on an unhappy expat housewife holed up in Jeddah. It feels autobiographical; Mantel lived in Jeddah for four years in the 1980s and said it was the happiest day of her life when she left.
I've still got a couple of stories to go. But I might just let this one go back to the library tomorrow as there's a waiting list for it. You can read the Mrs Thatcher story here, but it struck me as Mantel trying to be controversial for the sake of it.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014



I thought I couldn't imagine any Mapp and Lucia other than Prunella Scales and Geraldine McEwan - but, on the strength of the first episode of the new series, Miranda Richardson and Anna Chancellor are absolutely brilliant and I simply love Richardson's face whenever Miss Mapp is thwarted.
Just in time ... my Sunday evening was quite ruined when I belatedly realised that the rather abrupt and unsatisfactory ending the previous week was actually the end of this series of Downton. I suppose they must eke it out ... because once Tom and Lady Mary walk down the aisle - which is my pet theory, so it's bound to be wrong - that has to be The End.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Anyone else trying this book quiz?  I'm stuck with six to go ...
No, that's five to go, just had a brainwave!

Monday, 17 November 2014


I'm enjoying this very much, especially with Alan Bennett's voice rumbling through it and admitting that he doesn't understand Auden. (If my mum were still here, this would have been her Christmas present.) There's Larkin and Betjeman, like old friends - MacNeice, learned by heart at school ...

Life in a day: he took his girl to the ballet;
Being short-sighted himself could hardly see it -

How I sympathise with that!

For me, the new discovery has been Thomas Hardy; I've read all the novels, but very little of his poetry.

Not a new discovery that I thoroughly dislike AE Housman ... what a posturing old fraud he was. Alan Bennett says that his poems don't appeal to women.  Auden summed him up exactly:

Deliberately he chose the dry-as-dust,
Kept tears like dirty postcards in a drawer. 

I think I'm with MacNeice:
I would have a poet able bodied, fond of talking, a reader of the newspapers, capable of pity and laughter, informed in economics, appreciative of women, involved in personal relationships, actively interested in politics, susceptible to personal impressions ... I write poems not because it is smart to be a poet but because I enjoy it as one enjoys swimming or swearing, and also because it is my road to freedom and knowledge.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Nina Stibbe's funny collection of letters  Love, Nina, was my Christmas reading last year and proved exactly right for those days between Christmas and New Year when you'd like to get stuck into a book but there's lots of interruptions for eating and conversation and playing silly games. I wasn't completely convinced that, as a 20-year-old nanny to the literati - Alan Bennett is a neighbour, often dropping in -  she was quite as naive as she makes out ... but it was a nice, funny, easy read.

I'm much less taken by her latest book Man at the Helm, a semi-autobiographical first novel about two impossibly precocious sisters trying to fix their flaky mother up with a man. (It's not actually a new book, it was written years ago and has only been published now on the back of last year's bestseller.)

I'm getting tired of all that breathless, self-conscious ditzy charm ... In fact, I feel as if I'm at a party that I was quite enjoying half an hour ago but now I'm getting desperate to escape. It's just too relentless. Aaarghh ... let me out! It's going back to the library!

Friday, 14 November 2014


Dorothy Whipple fans will recognise Pauline with a Red Cushion (Sir James Gunn, c 1930, from some lucky person's private collection) ...

She was even more glamorous in yellow when I met her 'in the flesh' for the first time at the Harris Museum in Preston a few weeks ago. I remember admiring her painted toenails - so not a huge surprise to discover that she worked for Elizabeth Arden.



I'd love to visit this exhibition - and see the real yellow dress - but I doubt I'll be in Preston any time soon.