Thursday, 12 July 2018



It's been so hot that I've been chasing air-con hence a glut of movies this week, including this oldie that doesn't date. (Just my luck when the air-con broke down in a stifling Leicester Square cinema.)
Hearts Beat Loud was a likeable, undemanding feel-good movie that will linger in my mind until at least the end of the week. Or maybe not even that long.
Searching was gripping until a remarkably silly ending completely ruined it.


It would have taken a heart of stone not to laugh at the blokes on my way home last night on the Tube. Those faces of abject misery ...  they weren't even drunk, sorrow clearly running too deep to be drowned.
Actually - whilst not giving a stuff about men kicking balls - I've been cheering England on since I noticed the correlation between big matches and tumbling ticket prices. (What spoilsports holding the final on a Sunday!)
Sweden v England saw me in the stalls for the first part of RSC's Imperium - and last night saw me back again for part two. Lots and lots of empty seats - but it was riveting! I'm not sure I could have done the whole seven hour marathon in one day - but I'd happily go back and see it all again. My knowledge of who's who in Ancient Rome is hazy but it's so deftly explained that even if you're not Mary Beard, you won't have any problem keeping up. And it's funny. A bit like Yes, Minister in togas.
I thought the streets of London would be deserted on Saturday afternoon but I'd forgotten about Pride; you'd think that when I found myself sitting on the Tube beside a 7ft drag queen with Liz Taylor hair, thunderous thighs and skimpy shorts that the penny might have dropped ... but I didn't twig until I surfaced at Piccadilly Circus and found myself in the middle of it. But it did make the ice-cream queue very lively...
You'd have to sprint to make it during the interval - but you'd be mad to buy boring theatre ice-creams at the Gielgud when this is just around the corner. After some dedicated testing this week, ricotta and sour cherry is my favourite so far.


Last one up's a sissy ... no surprise that was me! I climbed the Pagoda at Kew yesterday to admire the shiny new dragons that replace the originals that haven't been seen since the 1780s. (It has very rarely been open to the public - until now - and last time I was inside, many years ago, it was very dingy and disappointing.) I couldn't make out Windsor Castle - but looking east I saw as far as the Shard and the City. There's still not a lot inside - some lovely benches made from coppiced trees from the Gardens - and the hatches that were used to test smoke bombs for D-day. I loved playing with two delightful mechanical toys that show architect William Chambers on his visit to China and the Royal Family in their 18th century Kew menagerie - with kangaroos, peacocks and secretary birds. (Bit expensive though, as you have to pay on top of admission to the Gardens.)
The Gardens, sadly, were looking very parched and dry. (Last time I was there was in May to see the bluebells.) But the Waterlily House was simply gorgeous yesterday- like walking into a painting by Monet, though I couldn't bear the heat for more than a few minutes. And the kitchen garden - one of my favourite quiet corners - was pure Mr McGregor.

Friday, 6 July 2018



I'm rather tickled by the idea of Suffragettes marching on banana fritters ...



Which sound rather heavy-going for this weather - but it has just struck me that I've been tackling the heatwave in Suffragette colours since a kind gardener gave me a nice bunch of anise hyssop yesterday.  It makes a lovely, refreshing emerald-green tea. I haven't had a mug of Yorkshire Brew all day - unheard of for me - and I'll be begging for some more. The linden blossom is out all over London so I must grab some of that, too.
Meanwhile, there's a bowl of nasturtium seeds in the fridge - rescued from a wheelbarrow as gardeners wage war against black-fly. They have had a jolly good wash and they're going into a loaf of nasturtium bread. (They taste like capers.) Coming soon, lavender honey.

I was very pleased with my nasturtium loaf today - I made nasturtium butter to go with it, so you could say it was nose-to-tail: flowers, leaves and seeds. If you have nasturtiums in the garden, the recipe is in this lovely book. Or find it here. I should have served it on my pretty nasturtium plates but it disappeared in a flash.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018



Can it really be six years? Long enough for me to have completely wiped from my mind the banality of The Bletchley Circle - if only I'd reminded myself.
And so - feeling too hot to read, too hot to do anything - I found myself watching Bletchley Goes to San Francisco ... yes, that's right, San Francisco - a spin-off that aspires to mediocrity and misses.
The sad thing is that this was such a good idea - a drama about what happened to the clever Bletchley women after the war - and ITV couldn't have made a sorrier job of it.

Thursday, 21 June 2018



The Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A made for uncomfortable viewing yesterday afternoon. Yes, it's spectacular and beautifully presented (and it wasn't even as crowded as I'd feared).
But at the centre of the exhibition is a gallery dedicated to Frida's endurance of pain, containing personal belongings that remained locked in her bathroom for 50 years after her death. It's fascinating to see ointments and cosmetics - her Revlon Frosted Pink Lightning nail polish, Shalimar scent, nail polish remover decanted into a Chanel No 5 bottle. There's excruciating corsets and braces, including a plaster corset painted with a foetus, made nearly 20 years after she suffered a life threatening miscarriage. There's her prosthetic leg in a jaunty red boot with bells and Chinese embroidery.
But is it all an intrusion too far, this rummaging in cupboards? Or was her whole life a work of art? It was amazing to see the display of her stunning costumes (I thought I spotted a neatly-darned cigarette burn on a skirt) and her jewellery and head-dresses: she dressed up even when she was at home and not expecting visitors.
Actually, what puzzles me most about myself is that simply by turning up you make yourself part of the hagiography and become a worshipper at the shrine. I suspect in another age I'd have been a Wife of Bath on a jaunt to Canterbury.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018



I saw a lovely, gentle film last night (a remake of an Argentinian film from 2010) about a put-upon Catholic housewife who begins to find herself when she discovers a talent (and a partner) for competitive jigsaw puzzles. It's the opening film of the Edinburgh Film Festival. There's a trailer here and review here.
I can't do jigsaws - haven't the patience - though I imagine the satisfaction of the last piece is similar to that 'all's right with the world' feeling that you get from completing a challenging crossword.
But if you are a puzzle fan, these are the jigsaws from the movie.
I was puzzling over where I'd seen Kelly Macdonald before until I remembered that she was Christopher Robin's beloved nanny.



Last week's film was Leave No Trace - which I wanted to like more than I did because it's beautifully filmed if you like the great outdoors (I don't much!) but sooooo slow-moving. It's had ecstatic reviews but I came away feeling short-changed as so many questions weren't answered ... like, how long had Tom and her army veteran dad been living in the wild? and where was Tom's mother? Maybe I'm too literal minded. A wonderful performance by the young New Zealand actress who plays Tom and a very funny scene when she and her father feel obliged to attend church. But it didn't quite pass the slumber test as I drifted off for a few minutes and, as I clearly have more vulgar taste than The Guardian reviewer, I'll admit that I preferred Captain Fantastic.
Actually, I went to another film over the weekend - L'Aveu, an oldie with Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, based on the true story of a communist politician, one of the accused in a 1951 Stalinist show trial in Czechoslovakia. (A Czech historian appeared at the end and seemed to have lots of quibbles about the veracity of the film but didn't make a very good job of explaining why.)
Gripping, but gruelling - and no, I couldn't persuade anyone to come with me!