Sunday, 28 May 2017




What an irresistible cover! This has been my 'handbag book' for the last week or so; each diary extract is just long enough to read between two bus/Tube stops. (I know ...that's highbrow literary criticism, but I'm just about to embark on a book for the day-job that I can barely physically lift. Does the publisher honestly think that any reader is going to bother flexing their muscles?
I do think that James Lees-Milne had a fabulous job, swanning around English country houses during the 1930s and 40s, persuading their fallen-on-hard-times owners to hand them over to the National Trust. One house, to be honest, sounds much the same as another; what I love is his waspish descriptions of the eccentric, batty owners and that slightly poignant feeling that, love them or loathe them, they are the last of a breed that is teetering on the edge of extinction. I'm a NT volunteer so I headed straight for the chapter on 'my' house and was with J L-M every step of the way down the long drive (I walked it yesterday} into grounds that were 'indescribably overgrown and unkempt' (they're simply gorgeous today) and waited at the back door (that grating noise has been fixed). An elderly man opened the door. 'He had red hair and a red face, carrot and port wine ... "The old alcoholic famly butler," I said to myself... Slowly he led me down a dark passage, his legs moving in painful jerks. At last he stopped outside a door and knocked nervously. An ancient voice cried, "Come in!" The seedy butler then said to me, "Daddy is expecting you," and left me ...'   

Friday, 26 May 2017



I was too hot - too tired - not in the mood - I thought it sounded bonkers and couldn't remember why I wanted to go in the first place ... but I'd already got my ticket so I dutifully set out this evening to see An Octoroon inspired by Boucicault's play that caused a sensation in 1859 ...
And it turned out to be quite mad and absolutely hilarious and very clever. What a shame that the tiny Orange Tree Theatre was only one-third full (and quite a few left at the interval including the lady next to me who clearly didn't get it.)
The Guardian called it 'bizarrely brilliant' and they're right. I do hope they get a fuller house when the weather cools down.


You don't expect an audience of millennials for a Terence Rattigan play ... but last night the average age was about 87! Fine by me, actually ... it makes a pleasant change to be the youngest.
Set in the final months of the war, the play was last seen in London at its West End premiere in 1944 - when it originally starred the famous American theatrical couple, the Lunts, who had been bombed out of another West End run by a V-I rocket.
It's about a glamorous middle-class widow who's revelling in her new high society life - as the established mistress of a Canadian millionaire - until her lumpish teenage son returns from being evacuated.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, though the lumpish teenage son was a bit over-played for my seat in the front few rows of the stalls. I was so close to the action that I kept getting wafts of Eve Best's scent and wondered what she wearing. Reviews here and here.

Monday, 8 May 2017



Having spent yesterday with my head down in Lincoln in the Bardo - so brilliant, I've nearly finished it  I couldn't help seeing these Giacometti figures at Tate Modern as troubled spectres.
It's ages - a couple of years - since I've been in Tate Modern. I walk past and don't bother going in. I loathe it ... the totalitarian bulding, the banal thematic displays, the fact that you can go all the way up without even glimpsing any art. I enjoyed the exhibition but when I strolled through one of the displays on my way out, I thought what absolute *!!* this is.
But I did enjoy the exhibition. And because I hadn't been up there before I whizzed up to the (very chilly) viewing platform and thought how I'd hate to live in one of these £4.5million flats. What tidy people live there. Though I suppose if you can afford £4.5million to live in a goldfish bowl, you can afford someone to clear last night's coffee mugs and plump the cushions. I was rather hoping somebody might shuffle through in designer bunny slippers and their PJs - but it was lunchtime. If you can stop admiring other people's sofas, from the river-side there is a terrific view across London.

Sunday, 7 May 2017



I normally find over-hyped, post-modern, best-selling novels all too easy to resist and I carted this home from the library yesterday, balanced on a bag of shopping that I was already struggling to carry, more than half-convinced that I'd be carrying it back again only half-read ...
But the reviews have been so good and I suppose I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
This afternoon, I was sitting at my desk, supposed to be working - and I opened it, just for a peep. (It is so not a good idea to have a teetering TBR pile balanced on one's printer, if only because it makes printing so precarious.)
Anyway, I peeped and now I'm completely immersed. I think it's going to be very good. See you when I surface.

Friday, 5 May 2017



I spent yesterday afternoon buried in a deep, squishy armchair at Soho House (a bit too squishy, I needed four cushions to prop myself up) watching Woody Allen's Manhattan - the first time I've seen it in a cinema since 1979. Can it really be 38 years? I'd forgotten how beautiful it is - my favourite city - Gershwin - Mariel Hemingway's eyebrows ... even if they did have to bring their own park bench to the bridge. Ranked at number 76 of the 500 greatest movies ever made. (I'd place it higher. I've just checked out the list and Raiders of the Lost Ark was number 2 for heaven's sake!) It has just been re-released in cinemas. Don't think, "Oh, I've seen it before" ... it was even better than I remembered it.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Promise Movie Poster

I realised that I know almost nothing about the Armenian genocide in the last days of the Ottoman empire, a massacre that Turkey refuses to acknowledge to this day. (No doubt that explains why The Promise was filmed in Spain, Portugal and Malta.) Despite pretty awful reviews, I went to see it last night; it's by the same Irish director who made Hotel Rwanda. To be honest, you'd have to be very generous to give this well-intentioned film more than 5/10. Wooden acting; Christian Bale was particularly bad. An unconvincing love triangle/romance tagged on for human interest as if the deaths of 1.5 million people weren't enough. (Look out for a bizarre cameo from Tom Hollander - could anybody look less like an Armenian clown ...  what on earth was all that about?)  And yet I'm glad I went. The film could have been better but it's a shocking episode of history that deserves not to be forgotten.