Wednesday, 26 July 2017



Mamma is the widowed Joanna Malling, forty-one years of age and still young in looks and heart. (But not on the book jacket. She's wearing a headscarf and looks about 70.)

I nearly fell over when I read that on the inside cover. 41? I think that was the year I went skinnydipping in Bolivia on my hols. Thank heavens I wasn't 41 in 1956 when Mamma was published.

I so loved Guard Your Daughters - and I see I'm not the only one who thinks it's better than I Capture the Castle -  that I placed an order for Diana Tutton's other novel at the library. It emerged from the depths this afternoon, apparently having survived an accident with a cup of cocoa. (Or Horlicks. It's clearly time I gave up gin and took to Horlicks. Or Complan.)

I haven't started it yet. I'm hoping it won't be over-stimulating. At my age.


After last night's soporific arty-farty tosh at the National ... this riveting play at the Almeida, quite the best thing I've seen in ages. I can't say that I often go to the theatre two nights on the run, but I booked months and months ago to see Ink -  the story of the launch of Rupert Murdoch's super soaraway Sun - and it's terrific. 5* from me, and an audience almost unanimously old enough to feel nostalgia for the rattle of typewriters clearly agreed.  I'll be tempted to go again when it opens in the West End.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017



I spent a few days in Dublin last week and was standing outside the (newly-renovated) National Gallery of Ireland before the doors opened. Luckily, my hotel was only five minutes walk away, in the heart of Georgian Dublin where I'd happily spend an afternoon admiring front doors.
What a thrill to see ten Vermeers, almost a third of what survives, especially as the National Gallery on a weekday morning is a whole lot more conducive to enjoyment than battling crowds in the Louvre. (This exhibition won't be coming to London.)
But it wasn't just the Vermeers. The supporting cast was excellent, too.

The Slippers, Samuel van Hoogstraten




A Woman Playing a Clavichord, Gerrit Dou
Missed my favourite painting when I visited Dulwich a couple of weeks ago ... so that's where she was! 

Woman Reading a Letter, Gabriel Metsu

Feet protesting when I'd finished, I jumped on a hop on/off tourist bus for a sit-down, and found myself outside the Guinness brewery ... All I can say is, DON'T. Don't ever do this to yourself. Hot, noisy, crowded, devised by some sadistic mind for the torture of tourists -  but you have to admire the Irish, extracting €20 for a 'free' pint. And I don't even like Guinness. I managed half a pint in the overrated Gravity Bar, then scarpered. 


Great poster. Stunning lighting design. Impenetrable play.

Common - on at the National Theatre - has had some stinking reviews. This was one of the better ones. It's frustrating to see such a wonderful actress in such an unwieldy, self-indulgent play; but the last time I saw Anne-Marie Duff on stage, if anything, the play was even worse.  William Blake meets the Wicker Man, said the Guardian; I'd throw in a dash of Mr Strange and Mr Norrell, too.

I had a little snooze. Quite a few people didn't return after the interval.

Don't ask me what it was about!

But I'm looking forward to this which promises to be a much better night.

Monday, 24 July 2017



I thought this looked interesting but I soon got rather bored by this Canadian astronaut telling me - repetitively - what a hard-working, humble, thoroughly reliable, all-round decent good guy he is. I'm sure I'd like to have him onside in a crisis, but he sent my Great British cynicism soaring. I was hoping for something more like this.

Monday, 17 July 2017



On a flying to visit to Edinburgh last week, I had a couple of hours to spare and decided to be a real tourist and visit the Royal Yacht Britannia - conveniently berthed outside Debenham's to make HM feel at home because there's a TKMaxx right outside Windsor Castle, too. (I've often wondered if she ever gets the chance to rummage through the handbags and cheap soaps or if she's eaten up with curiosity every time she sails past in the Rolls.)
I'm no great Royalist but the yacht visit was fascinating, and I can see why it's been rated Scotland's best attraction; after all, it's not every day you get to peep into the Queen's bedroom. (Narrow, single bed. Even in the 1950s.) It's a wonderful mixture of the grand - parking space for a Rolls Royce - and the cramped family holiday from hell (cooking smells and sailors swabbing decks before you're out of bed). And despite the photographs on display from royal honeymoons - well, they're pretty well all divorced now and no wonder. All those stories about Princess Di stuffing herself with ice-cream in the galley suddenly rang very true ... there can't have been a moment's privacy, even if the crew are trained Downton-style never to make eye contact with their employers and 'betters.' As for the 'honeymoon suite' and the 4ft6 double bed that Charles brought on board specially ... you'd have more space in a decent B&B.

Sunday, 16 July 2017



It was a damp day for Kew yesterday but although I only live 10 minutes away, I've never managed to visit while they're cooking in the royal kitchens. I browsed through this book - new to me - by a 1780s tavern cook - filed away a few ideas that I really must try - and watched as two chatty cooks prepared a royal supper tray of chicken curry, meatballs, 'Turkish' lamb, asparagus made to resemble green beans, ale-barm bread and homemade cheese, syllabub and raspberry cream. I'm definitely going to make that cream cheese though I'm not too confident about making a yeast starter by leaving a bowl to stand under an apple tree. If only I had an apple tree, I'd give it a try.