Ken Loach's new film - can you believe, he's still making films at 80? - is a heartbreaking indictment of the callousness of the benefits system. Sadly, it's a film that probably won't be seen by the people who ought to see it. Daniel is a decent, ordinary man trying to claim benefits after a serious heart attack but deemed fit to work by dopey young women, sorry, that's 'healthcare professionals', ticking boxes in a call-centre. Daniel is computer-illiterate but the system is 'online by default'; he's a man who is 'pencil by default.' There are dozens of free previews across the country over the next week or so as they try to drum up word of mouth for this film - just google it - but I do hope that there's a three-line whip screening for all the MPs and Orwellian bureaucrats who should be made to see it. There's a review here. And as a portrayal of frustrated middle-age, it's far more powerful than this bland, heart-warming bilge - unanimously loathed by my book group - that has also been turned into a film.
Highlight of my week has been a gloriously sunny day in Kew Gardens. If there's a literary festival happening a 10-minute bus ride from home, then it would be a shame not to be there - and in between enjoying the autumn colours, a visit to the Georgian kitchen (but sadly no time for Kew Palace), and a far too hasty visit to this exhibition of exquisite Japanese flower paintings - worth at least an hour that I didn't have - I fitted in two fascinating talks: Helen Rappaport, on the Russian revolution (that talk was held in Museum No 1, which sounded suitably Soviet!) and Artemis Cooper, on Elizabeth Jane Howard. I've ordered both books from the library. (I know, you're supposed to buy them but who wants to carry hard-backs around Kew Gardens ... although I saw many intrepid ladies lugging heavy book bags.) EJH is clearly having her moment. I noticed someone in Waterstone's this morning buying The Long View - recommended by Artemis Cooper as her best. It must be 30-odd years since I read it, so that's on my autumn bookpile, too. And The Cazalets is being adapted for television which is something to look forward to.
I remember listening to EJH at an Elizabeth Taylor event a few years ago, shortly before she died and shortly after the publication of Nicola Beauman's very good biography of Taylor. EJH was terribly scathing about biographers who went 'digging around like journalists' ... although quite what they're supposed to do instead, heaven knows - commune by seance? So I was amused when Artemis Cooper said that she seemed more than happy to be interviewed on several occasions herself - but then I guess that being the subject of a biography is the ultimate corroboration of being an Important Novelist.