Saturday, 31 May 2014

Mr Edwards -

I am a draper mad with love. I love you more than all the flannelette and calico, candlewick, dimity, crash and merino, tussore, cretonne, crepon, muslin, poplin, ticking and twill in the whole Cloth Hall of the world. I have come to take you away to my Emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires. Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm your sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast.

Miss Price -

I will knit you a wallet of forget-me-not blue for the money, to be comfy. I will warm your heart by the fire so that you can slip it in under your vest when the shop is closed.

Mr Edwards -

Myfanwy, Myfanwy, before the mice gnaw at your bottom drawer will you say 

Miss Price -

Yes, Mog, yes, Mog, yes, yes, yes 

Mr Edwards -

And all the bells of all the tills of the town shall ring for our wedding.

I listened to this lovely BBC adaptation of Under Milk Wood over a midnight supper when I came in last night. Terrific cast playing the villagers of Llareggub (read it backwards), especially Sîan Phillips - with a face that would curdle milk - and Jonathan Pryce, as Mr and Mrs Pugh.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Danse á Grande Vitesse
Prompted by the absolutely horrendous weather forecast for the bank holiday, I changed my plans for the weekend and at about midnight on Friday booked a last-minute ticket for the Royal Ballet's triple bill this afternoon. Good decision .. it was chucking it down by the time I set out.
There was Balanchine's Serenade - sublime music and lovely Sarah Lamb dancing. (Here's a clip from another company.)
There was Liam Scarlett's Sweet Violets, about Walter Sickert and street girls and Jack the Ripper ... Didn't do it for me, the story is too convoluted and messy, but the Bedford Music Hall set was fabulous.
And then there was DGV:Danse à Grande Vitesse which was the reason I'd booked. I've been wanting to see this for ages ...
And it was fast and exhilarating and full of verve and even better than I'd hoped. And worth the ticket money for this alone. In the silence at the end, you could hear the dancers' great gasping breaths. I wish I could wind back the clock to lunchtime and see it again.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Sheaf

For sheer, glorious exuberance and joie de vivre ...

Matisse's paper cut-outs are still dancing in my head. Literally dancing, because they are so much more alive than when you see them in reproductions. What never crossed my mind was that when Matisse's studio was papered from floor to ceiling with seaweedy fronds like this pinned to the wall with tin tacks or ordinary dressmaking pins ...

Well, of course they would dance and flutter in the breeze.

Snow Flowers, 1951

To think that these were the works of his old age after surgery for cancer left him unable to stand and stopped him from painting.

Somehow, seeing the pinmarks lets you into Matisse's mind ... although his studio assistants physically moved the paper shapes around untilhe was satisfied.

I spent a long time reading the flowing handwritten text to his book of circus prints. Do I believe in God? Yes, when I work, when I'm submissive and modest, I feel myself helped by someone who makes me do things that surpass myself. However, I don't feel any gratitude towards him for it is as if I found myself in front of a conjuror whose tricks I can't penetrate. So I find myself  frustrated from profiting from the experience that ought to be the reward of my efforts. I am ungrateful without remorse. 

(My translation, so I hope I've captured the gist of it.)

His writing, he said, was purely decorative, accompanying his colours like asters in a bouquet of more important flowers.

Ivy in Flower, 1953

This was the maquette for the stained glass window of a mausoleum ... what a way to go!

If you're feeling deterred by the thought of queuing and crowds, it was busy - but nothing like as bad as I expected. Lucille recommends turning up at 10 am and hurrying through to have a few minutes alone at the end of the exhibition. I'm incapable of getting anywhere early, but I found it interesting taking it chronologically and seeing how Matisse's panache with the scissors developed over time. But whatever you do, don't miss it.
And do take a look at the lovely pictures here.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Enjoyed an afternoon pottering around Nuffield Place, a very unpretentious home for a philanthropist who gave away the equivalent of £700m in today's money ...

And I think what tickled me most was the unabashed awfulness of Lord Nuffield's taste in art and china knick-knacks.

It's a pity that the National Trust hasn't made a bit more effort with the teashop because after an hour stepping back in time (Lady N's crinoline lady teacosy, bookcases lined with DE Stevenson novels ...) I would have given anything for a fondant fancy or a slice of homemade Battenberg or, even better, some Fuller's walnut cake.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Yesterday I headed off to Fournier Street - probably my favourite street in London - where there is a tiny exhibition of Angie Lewin prints (until Saturday) in the studio behind this lovely Georgian house. And eventually the penny dropped that I was chatting to Angie Lewin herself who is staying over the shop. (I'm going to have to treat myself one day. To one of her prints. And to a weekend in Spitalfields.)
When I ventured down the stairs - go carefully! - I discovered that the kitchen had been converted into a little tearoom since my last visit. I didn't indulge because I'd already treated myself to one of the best Eccles cakes in London just around the corner.
Plan A was to head on to Tate Modern to see Matisse, but I realised I'd left it a bit late so instead I strolled down to Brick Lane, bought my favourite yogurt here, admired the street art - I'm always thrilled when I come across one of Roa's animals because I never remember quite where they are - walked as far as the church they use in Rev - I've never been inside - then sat for a while with my book by the Arnold Circus bandstand.
When I got home, it took me a while mentally to defrock Rev and accept him as Dylan Thomas.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Scandal forces a young woman into a hurried marriage of convenience with a childhood admirer, now a widower with a young son.
She travels to his remote farm on Galveston Island, Texas, where her city manners are out of place, where her husband's son is grieving for his dead mother and his housekeeper is struggling to contain her unrequited love.
Ann Weisgarber's writing is so powerful that you can feel the heat, smell the salt water on the bayou.
The Galveston storm of 1900 that killed 8,000 people really happened.
I can't remember when I last read a novel that conveyed such a strong sense of place, unless it was by Willa Cather.
It's worth visiting Ann Weisgarber's excellent website where you can see photographs of the aftermath of the hurricane and listen to the music that runs through the book.
I would also highly recommend her first book The Personal History of Rachel Dupree.

Friday, 16 May 2014

I was contemplating flying up to Edinburgh to see this final exhibition in the Scottish Colourist series, as  I'd greatly enjoyed the Peploe and Cadell shows.
And then I realised that I could see it much closer to home.

I couldn't imagine how 1984 would work as a stage play ...

But this visceral, inventive adaptation is completely gripping and scarily relevant to today.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Last night, I sat at the back of this magnificent Baroque church -
Listening to Schubert -
Occasionally glancing through the windows as twilight fell outside.
As we walked back to the Tube, we stopped for a few minutes outside Westminster Abbey.
It was a good evening.

Friday, 9 May 2014

It has been a lost afternoon as I read this from cover to cover, and it's like a masterclass in how to interview celebrities. So cheering to know that she writes interviewees' names in big letters in her notebook in case she forgets who they are. The Culture Show special is far too short.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

I've spent the bank holiday weekend completely engrossed in this 1925 novel by EH Young. (Out of print but an excellent buy for 1p from Amazon.) I have seen this so many times in charity shops and yet never felt quite attracted enough to pick it up ...
And even when I did buy a copy from Oxfam, after discovering that wonderful spinster Miss Mole, I let poor William languish unread on my book pile for months.
What was I thinking of? As I was reading, I kept thinking that, as a family novel, this was as enjoyable as a Dorothy Whipple (and you can't say fairer than that) but with more depth of character.
William is a hugely attractive character, a retired sailor now the successful owner of a small shipping company, happily married to a wife with whom he has little in common - he is as droll as Mr Bennet - and the father of four grown-up daughters and a rather uninteresting son. There is penny-pinching, perversely frumpy Mabel, the eldest, least favourite child and nobody's favourite sister; Dora, whose marriage to an overbearing husband isn't quite as perfect as she makes it seem; Janet, the youngest, still at home, fancying herself in love with her other sister's husband, and struggling to forge an independent life for herself; and Lydia, so heartbreakingly lovely that her father's deep affection  for her - and to a modern reader, this is mildly discomfiting - is almost that of a proxy lover.
But when Lydia runs away from her nice, but unsatisfactory husband - I did wonder if 40 years on, Oliver might have been happier with another good-looking man - the emotional fall-out from her scandalous behaviour rocks the family and her parents' marriage in particular.
EH Young's own unconventional life would have been material enough for a novel.
William was apparently one of the first ten titles published by Penguin and now that I've read it, I completely understand why. It's hard to imagine a reader who wouldn't love it.  Seems like lots of people, though, have discovered this before me.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Fish and chip shop, David Hockney
Lovely, exuberant exhibition of Hockney prints at Dulwich Picture Gallery. This was an early one when he was still a student.

Self-portrait, July, 1986

He's always inventive. He photocopied his shirt ...
(I'm tempted to try this at home.)

There's more here. It was a delight on a chilly, grey day.