Tuesday, 15 October 2019



Hurray ... and said to be even better than the first. My favourite cranky literary heroine.

Saturday, 12 October 2019













Imagine a dress of cloth of silver, embroidered with flowers - jonquils, pansies, gillyflowers, a Tudor rose - and fruits - medlars, quince, strawberries - and there's creepycrawlies and a peacock, and a sea monster attacking a boat and a bear hunt ... imagine how it would shimmer in the light of a thousand candles at court, where so many functionaries wore black ...
(Click on the image to see in detail.)
And imagine the excitement of discovering that an altarcloth in a country church is probably - more than likely - a panel from the gown that Elizabeth I wore in the famous Rainbow portrait. (She was nearly 70 when it was painted but she wasn't one for warts and all realism.)
To put it in context, the amount of silver in the gown would have paid for a substantial Tudor mansion. (Lord Dudley's silver court suit cost slightly more than Shakespeare paid for New Place.)

I was enthralled to see altarcloth and portrait reunited in a tiny but exquisite exhibition at Hampton Court yesterday. The flowers and fruit on the original gown - copied from herbal books - would have taken a professional master embroiderer (male) some 600 hours; the quirky bugs and narrative scenes were added later by aristocratic ladies going through the Queen's wardrobe around the time of her death. The restoration - including gentle cleaning with dry cosmetic sponges - took 1000 hours.
There's still a faint winestain - presumably Communion wine - but I couldn't make that out.

Then I had a stroll around my favourite corners of the Palace ... first stop the kitchens, then the Chapel Royal - and the gardens, where the dahlias are simply stunning.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019



Oh, dear - looks like Sanditon series 2 for sure.  But is there anybody out there who cares?  My predictions? Otis will return having made his fortune and marry Miss Lambe - Young Stringer will get his heart broken again - and Sidney will find time for a shave  c1825. When George V says, "Bugger Sanditon,' in series 6, the fortunes of Tom's descendants will be assured.
Jane Austen would have wrapped it up so much more succinctly.
#Nothing'sasgoodasDownton.


As ever, I'm befuddled by too much choice. (And if I'm honest, I much prefer a comfortable banquette to myself at an Everyman to a wonky seat in a marquee on the Embankment.)  Unfortunately I didn't get my act together in time to see the film that I really, really want to see. Doesn't it look fun? 
I didn't make the best of random choices. Susan Sarandon dying of MND in a distractingly gorgeous beach house (West Wittering posing as The Hamptons) was a slow death by mediocrity. (Blackbird, don't bother!)  It was so very similar to Julianne Moore's demise in After the Wedding a few months ago - fab house, daytime soap emotions - that I thought I'd inadvertently bought a ticket for something I'd seen before.
Bill Nighy and Annette Bening as a miserably long-married couple in Hope Gap began promisingly - but her English accent was so weird and her nagging wife character was such a monster that I lost interest and nodded off. (Quite an achievement in the wonky seat!) Ten minutes? Twenty minutes? Who knows - but when I jerked awake, they'd reached some kind of resolution but I wasn't sure how they got there. And didn't greatly care. The Sussex coastal scenery is the best part. Annette Bening appeared in person at the end and said something blandly forgettable. There's often a celeb appearance after LFF movies and they are almost without exception proof that actors are exceedingly dull without a good script. (Directors are better value ... I saw Children of a Lesser God last week - yes, the oldie from 1986 - and the director was wonderfully indiscreet about what a pain it was working with William Hurt.)
Well, after that I was tempted to give up ... then I cracked and booked a ticket for this next weekend. At least it sounds more promising.

Saturday, 28 September 2019



Of course, I did binge-listen to The Country Girls and Cait and Baba were dispatched on the boat to England in the final episode over a bowl of soup this lunchtime. Not sure how long we'll have to wait until the start of book three. (It's now officially autumn: I'm making factory-quantities of soup. There is partridge for dinner which sounds grand but it was reduced to £1.)
It must be 30-odd years since I read The Name of the Rose so it's hardly fresh in my memory, but I adored the book; the film with Sean Connery was something of a let-down. So I began the new TV adaptation with high hopes. Hmmmm ... after two episodes I'm not convinced. It's very - busy. What I loved about the novel was the sense of rhythm of the monastic day. Perhaps it's my 30-years-older brain but  I've got the monks all in a muddle. I'll persevere - but not feeling any great enthusiasm so far.

Friday, 27 September 2019



Trying not to binge listen to The Lonely Girl on Radio4, the second book in the trilogy ...  I want it to last for a week of lunchtimes but it's 'just one more.'



You could read this in an evening - and I did, utterly gripped. Tense, spare prose - not a word wasted -  and it reminded me of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, the most horrifying short story I have ever read.
There's a review here.




This, on the other hand, I put down thinking, "Why did I bother?" Well, I know why I started - seduced by that 'latter-day Daphne du Maurier" tribute on the jacket. I was only skim-reading by the end as - despite the allure of a ruined country house - I simply didn't care about the unconvincing characters. Did help me get off to sleep as I nodded off a couple of times and lost my place.
Sarah Moss, on the other hand, kept me up half the night!