Saturday, 2 January 2021

Happy New Year! Anyone else holding off from buying a new diary? Let's just say that I'm not exactly having any difficulty keeping track of my social engagements/walks in the park. The V&A obligingly e-mailed yesterday to cancel next week's birthday outing to their handbag exhibition and invited me to make a new booking - but when? Were there any highlights of 2020? Oh, the years when I was spoiled for choice and couldn't decide! But looking back from the doldrums of Tier 4 at the heady freedom of summer and autumn in Tier 2, I should have been clapping on the doorstep for all those in the arts who went the extra mile to give us a bit of the old normal. Mrs Miniver's Rose-Bowl Award goes to the Bridge Theatre for a most inventive Christmas Carol and for the best-designed social distancing in a public space I've experienced all year. We don't normally have a music award and Mrs M has cloth ears but the Royal Philharmonic reduced me to tears of gratitude for being out at a live performance at this lovely concert. I'm splitting the visual arts prize between the National Gallery - I wasn't quite first in the door, but I was there on the first day! - and the V&A whose exquisite kimono exhibition would have been a winner any year. Not forgetting Feast and Fast at the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge - what a day that was, gilded peacock pies and a train ride out of London! Rather to my surprise, I see that I've been to the cinema 13 times, but that was a flurry at the start of the year. I think I'll give the cinema rose-bowl to London Film Festival for going ahead and to Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci for Supernova. But I don't know what's happened to my reading mojo this year. So much time ... so little to show for it. Hilary Mantel still gathering dust. No improving classics challenges. Some book-group stinkers (My Sister, the Serial Killer - more flat-pack literature from our creative writing schools). But I enjoyed Elizabeth Goudge's The White Witch - a good, old-fashioned historical novel that reminded me how much I loved her books in my teens; Dinner with Edward (Isabel Vincent)made me long for an Edward of my own and if he were still alive, he'd be the ideal vulnerable friend with whom to bubble with his perfect Martinis and apricot soufflés - an immensely cheering book if you're getting very tired of your own cooking! I enjoyed The Binding, rather to my surprise as I don't do fantasy but maybe this was the year for it; in the British Library women writers series, I couldn't resist Tea is so Intoxicating - wonderful title, but the book proved rather feeble (and there wasn't even much cake!). I'm appalled that I didn't even manage a book a week which isn't like me - but have binge-watched whole TV series in a single afternoon. But , hey, I bought my first bunch of daffodils yesterday - even if they do look slightly odd paired with the red roses that have lasted since before Christmas. I spotted several clumps of primroses the other day, though oddly no snowdrops yet. And on Lockdown Day 276 - I finally got around to clearing that cupboard. One hour to do the job; but I had thought about it very hard indeed for at least two years. Hope you are all well and hope that normal service will one day be resumed when I have something to write about!

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Hurrah for Tier 2! I somehow doubt this will be the theatrical event of the decade - but I'm so grateful for the theatres that are re-opening next week and more than happy to Go Out to Help Out! I had a few theatre outings before lockdown and they all felt very safe and well-managed. And whatever the play's like, the Theatre Royal always looks festive - and it's a chance to see the Christmas lights - and maybe a browse in Fortnum's and Hatchard's ... excuse the over-excitement but I've had it with takeaway coffees and walks in the park!

Monday, 9 November 2020

Christmas is happening ... and I've booked my ticket! Determined to have one proper night out.

Monday, 2 November 2020

Well, I squeaked in there just in the nick of time - and I'd booked back in August as single seats were at a premium. So sad to see theatres closing - just as they'd begun to re-open. And clearly much thought and planning has gone into keeping audiences safe. There was literally yards of space between me and the next person ... oh, I know it's not economically viable, but while it lasts I'm enjoying segregation from fidgeters, sweet rustlers and those who risk dehydration if they don't gulp water like farmyard animals! I had doubts about the play - I only booked because it was Ralph Fiennes and because it was the first theatre to open. And I'd love to see something frivolous and shallow and fun rather than all the worthy stuff that is being programmed. But actually - I was gripped, despite the iffy reviews. Only an actor of Fiennes' calibre could have pulled it off. He was so good he put the fear of god into me about being stricken - and I wonder how many of the audience left the theatre thinking they'd never dare to venture out again. Unfortunately, by the time I got home that decision had been made for me - and I spent Sunday buying whisky supplies and new knickers in M&S as shopping for inessential knickers reverts to being a criminal activity. But I did my best to support the arts last week and also ventured to see Alan Bennett's Lady in the Van at Windsor. I am truly ashamed to say that I nodded off ... it was just a bit flat. Okayish. Lacking a Dame Maggie for sure. Windsor felt like a ghost town without tourists and the bottom has clearly fallen out of the nodding corgi market.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Lovely to be back at the Coliseum yesterday - not looking quite like this, but a very enthusiastic, socially-distanced audience was clearly thrilled to be there for a 'secret' Mozart concert to test drive the new normal. (Perhaps not that big a secret as I'd read about it online! Free tickets in the dress circle - what a treat!) When the artistic director urged us to use the facilities - to trial the lavatory queue algorithm - we felt quite guilty that we'd been before we set out! I'll admit I was doubtful about how social distancing would work in such a huge theatre - everything I've been to recently has been on a much smaller scale. I don't know how many hours and how many algorithms it has taken - but what a smooth operation! And there was something so joyful about being in a theatre again.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Arriving damply at St John's, Smith Square, yesterday, it struck me that lunchtime concerts during the pandemic are akin to Myra Hess's concerts at the National Gallery during the war for keeping the spirits up. I'm not the most musical person but I've been trying to go to something every week - and this was the most ambitious so far with the entire string section of the Royal Philharmonic rather than a single lonely cellist/pianist. And the music - all C20-C21 British works - was exquisite. Finzi's Eclogue brought tears to my eyes.
I'll admit that I'd never even heard of Doreen Carwithen (1922-2003) whose career was overshadowed by her husband's(same old story!) but who composed the scores for over thirty films;I just love the title of her overture ODTAA ... One Damn Thing After Another. Yesterday we heard her Concerto for piano and string orchestra: 'Rachmaninoff might have written it if he had belonged to the same stable as Vaughan Williams,' said a BBC producer in 1952 - and that was what intrigued me enough to buy my ticket! So lovely to see a queue to get in and a concert hall full of people as damp as I was - it felt like London was coming back to life.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Well, that's £11 I'll never see again! I went with low expectations that were amply fulfilled. If ever a film didn't need to be made - and if ever it was totally predictable that I'd go out of curiosity! Even Manderley looked totally wrong. 

Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers is the only one who can actually act. Simpering, silly Lily James and Armie Hammer - I thought that was toothpaste! - look as if they've ambled in from playing stock characters in an Agatha Christie murder mystery. There's so much snogging in the South of France that when Mrs van Hopper says,'You're a quick worker,' you're inclined to agree. Caroline de Winter's portrait on the staircase - surely by Gainsborough?  - has been revamped into a sexy Sargent swagger portrait ... nooooo! And as a friend has just reminded me ... Maxim is wearing a vest!I mean, can you imagine it ... Rebecca in her gossamer nightdress and he keeps his vest on!

If this is Rebecca for a younger generation ... they don't know what they're missing.