Tuesday, 22 April 2014



Okay, I admit, I have to be at a loose end to write about TV programmes.
And maybe that's why I'm such an unreliable critic.
Sorry. Remember my initial enthusiasm for Norwegian noir?
I couldn't make head nor tail of it by the end of the series.
And how could I possibly have thought that The Crimson Field was better than Call the Midwife?
What was I on? Does my Yorkshire Brew habit completely drown my critical faculties?
Like many of you, I suffer from incurable bouts of PAST (Post-Aristocratic Stress) manifesting as Sunday evening dependency on opiates sugar-coated in period costume. Women who suffer from PAST are often particularly susceptible to triggers from wartime.
Sadly The Crimson Field turned out to be Downton Goes to War, mildly enjoyable but emotionally uninvolving. Scriptwriting by numbers ...
Nurse with a shameful secret in her past. Check.
Let's have another nurse with a darker, more dangerous secret. Check.
Mean, kleptomaniac lesbian nurse? Two for the price of one. Check.
Nurses running away from something? That'll be all of them.
Equal opportunities statement. As all VADs must have secrets, even the cheerful youngest nurse has a teeny-tiny, not very interesting secret. Check. Bless her.
As for the shocking finale ... I won't give it away, but it's so obvious what's going to happen that they might have let off a howitzer blast to alert you.

However ...
After a four hour orgy last night when I watched Quirke from start to finish, for once I can confidently say that this series is seriously classy.
Adapted by Andrew Davies and Conor McPherson. From John Banville's series of crime thrillers (written as Benjamin Black). With a cast that includes smouldering Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon.
Set against the underbelly of de Valera's 1950s Dublin.
With lovely shots of Dollymount strand and Georgian fanlights.
There has been some carping about it in the Irish papers - but I thought it was excellent.

Saturday, 19 April 2014



We were probably the only people in the audience who didn't know the story inside out. Believe it or not, I have never read anything by Jacqueline Wilson -  but all of us, aged from seven to I'm not saying,    but the oldest person was me, thoroughly enjoyed this lovely stage adaptation of Hetty Feather, based on the story of the Foundling Hospital. It's only on for a few more days locally, but it's about to go on tour. Orphans and circus skills, a brilliant elephant and some wonderful circus horses who made the grown-ups laugh even more than the boys.
There's an interview with Jacqueline Wilson here and a trailer here. 
They didn't have anything like this when I was seven!
Now, of course, we must have an outing to the Foundling Hospital.
Voted 'best show we've ever seen' by two critics who can be counted on to speak their mind very loudly on the way home.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


This isn't the kind of book I'd buy - certainly not at £25 - but I saw it in the library and was seduced by the lovely pictures.
But, heavens, I found Emma Bridgewater's writing so annoying.
I'm as big a sucker as anybody else for all that aspirational stuff about life in the country with chickens and a dresser of enviable china - even though I know that I'd run a mile if a chicken cocked its eye at me. But it's a seductive image and, like every woman I know, I've bought into it.
Now I think of it, every kitchen where I'm on tea-drinking terms has some of her mugs/bowls/butter dishes ...
It's a brand. You shop at Waitrose. You buy Emma Bridgewater.
I'd have been interested in knowing a bit more about how she built such a successful business.
But there's a cliquey-ness about this book. It's rambling and unstructured. It's like being at a party where everybody else is on first name terms - and you're the glassy-eyed with boredom person who doesn't know who they're talking about. And the author hasn't the good manners to make introductions.
It's a bit like reading the Daily Mail sidebar of shame, only with a posher cast. (Kim, Cheyenne, Dita ... no, I haven't got a clue either.)
And it's put me right off my butter dish with the blue stars.
Which I don't suppose was the intention.

Monday, 14 April 2014



It's Mills and Boon meets Harry Potter.

It's Fifty Shades of Grey with vampires.

It's a silly book for silly women - and it's as long as Middlemarch.

Don't know what possessed me ...

Unless you're a vampire, life's too short.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Oh, to be in England ...

I have picked the first vases of white lilac.

Suddenly I notice wisteria drooping on the walls of enviable houses, ie not mine.

The bluebells came out when I must have been looking the other way.

A friend gave me a bunch of red parrot tulips from her garden - which would be on my desk. Except that is a precarious position for flowers.

There were violets on her lawn.

The Surrey hedgerows yesterday were bright with celandine and wood anemones and masses of cow parsley.

The year seems to be going very fast.


Yesterday we visited the Watts Gallery, I've never been there before. Not an artist I much care for - although I enjoyed seeing Miss Virginia Julian Dalrymple's green velvet gown displayed by her portrait. The gallery, however, is superb.

Here is a link for Mystica, who asked to see lilac. The scent is the smell of spring, Mystica, especially after rain when you smell the wet leaves. Around here, the white lilac has been out for a few days but the mauve-purply lilac needs a week or two longer. I remember one fabulous year when I enjoyed two lilac seasons, as I spent a few days in Sweden when it comes out in June, much later than ours. Every village there was drenched in it and the scent wafted on every breeze. More prosaically, I pick mine from a mass of bushes overhanging the railway line. This year they haven't cut them back and there's plenty in reach. 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014



I missed the last couple of productions at the Almeida, then regretted it when they transferred to the West End where seats are a sight more expensive than £9 in the stalls (supposedly restricted view but I've always been able to see perfectly well).
So this time I took a chance and booked for King Charles III - described as a future history play - without knowing anything about it.
I was in my seat before I looked at the cast list. Tim Pigott-Smith ...
He was simply brilliant as Charles, captured every nuance of well-meaning, dithering self-doubt and standing on ceremony.
The Queen is dead. Charles wants to be a King who makes his mark.
The first bill he has to sign is a privacy bill gagging the press.
Despite having no love for them, Charles doesn't want to put his signature to a bill about which he has grave reservations.
But will the politicians and the people accept a monarch who is more than a figurehead?
There is a tank outside Buckingham Palace ... but who/what is it there to protect?
Brilliantly-written, almost Shakespearean and highly-recommended. (Though I wasn't completely convinced by William's Kate as a manipulative Lady Macbeth.)
I did wonder what the real Charles would make of it.
But it's absolutely inconceivable that he could ever go!


The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

In memoriam (Easter 1915)
By Edward Thomas who died at Arras, this day, April 9, 1917.