Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Rimon (Pomegranate), Tal Shochat 2011

So perfect, you'd think it was plastic. Israeli photographer Tal Shochat (on her own? or with a squad of helpers? I couldn't help wondering) polished every twig, leaf and fruit on this pomegranate tree to achieve perfection. (And then rigged up a black background.) I am awestruck at the thought of going into the orchard with a can of Pledge and a yellow duster - when I so rarely attack my own bookshelves - and accept that I simply don't have the patience to be an artist and had much better put my creative urges to making cake!
The photograph is in the V&A's Into the Woods exhibition of tree photography. If you're at the V&A anyway for their ocean liners exhibition - which I enjoyed very much, but haven't got round to writing up - you'll find this tiny free exhibition in the next gallery and it's worth a 10-minute detour.

I loved this film when it first came out last year but at the time, there was little chance of seeing it outside London. Suddenly I see posters everywhere and it seems to be on wider release as of next week but the English title has been changed from the unwieldy Fifty Springtimes to I Got Life. Highly recommended and I might even go again. Miles, miles better than the clunky Finding Your Feet that squandered a brilliant cast (Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, Timothy Spall, all boosting their pensions!) on a hackneyed, patronising script.

Monday, 12 March 2018

I absolutely loved Bernard MacLaverty's latest book Midwinter Break which reminded me that I'd never got round to reading his earlier novel Grace Notes, despite the pulling power of its jacket by one of my favourite artists Hammershoi.
Sadly, it turns out that I'm the wrong the reader for this one and I didn't warm to this novel at all. Perhaps it really is 'a bad novel by a good writer' as one reviewer put it, but I simply felt irritated by Catherine, the young woman composer who is the central character; though I'll grant that someone more responsive to music - and the smell of babies - than I am might feel more sympathetic.
It's short, so I limped along to the end - felt glad that I didn't choose it for book group as it's my turn next and they'd all have hated for me for it - then picked up a George Gissing with huge relief because a good Victorian never lets you down.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Woman with Dagger, 1931
This is what Picasso painted during Christmas week, 1931. You can only imagine the festive mood in the family home ...

Woman in a Red Armchair, 1931
And this is the large painting he does, very quickly, on Christmas Day, a portrait of his secret (and much younger) lover Marie-Thérèse, with her face obliterated and her features replaced by a heart. (They met - or rather, he picked her up - in Galeries Lafayette one day when she was 17 and had gone to the store to buy a Peter Pan collar and cuffs. She remained in love with him for the rest of her life and said that he was the only person who ever really looked at her and properly saw her. ) 

And that's the opening of Tate Modern's magnificent Picasso exhibition that gives a day by day/month by month account of just one year in his life, 1932, when he was 50. I was riveted; when you look at the dates, you realise what a furious pace he worked at. 

The Dream 
I was one of the last to leave yesterday and stood in front of this for a long time; every curve seems imbued with love. (Of course, I'm glad that it wasn't me who did this. Whoops! )

Sunday, 25 February 2018

This was going to be my handbag book this week. (Can't get on the Tube or a bus without a book!) But I dipped into it in bed last night and now I've kind of had enough, because there's only so much schoolgirl enthusiasm you can take: 'Super - dead thrilling - Latin was simply unspeakable - Ye Gods! - The lower VI concert was terrific.'

I'm flagging - but in small doses it's fascinating as a window into the unsophisticated life of a 15-year-old in 1954. Margaret thinks boys are soppy and girls who are into boys are even soppier. She washes her 'mop' once a fortnight and helps her mum with housework on Saturday mornings. She thinks lipstick is 'muck' and despises those girls who try to look 20. 'Give me socks, flat heels, no makeup & teenage clothes any day!' 

Less than 20 years later, I was also a northern schoolgirl, equally set on getting into university but rather less assiduous when it came to revising. I would have died rather than wear socks. I haunted the makeup counter in Boots (Miner's lipstick, Kiku perfume) and my biggest interest in life (apart from boys) was my split ends, discussed endlessly with my best friend. We fervently believed that a much-advertised shampoo called Protein 21 would miraculously mend them. We hated Latin, never helped our mothers and ached to be grown-up.

I was never going to win any scholarships. But my spelling was much better than Margaret Forster's!

Friday, 23 February 2018

This stage adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock (at the Barbican until tomorrow) has had excellent reviews but didn't really do it for me, and judging from conversations I overheard on the way out those who hadn't seen the film were mightily confused by actresses playing several parts. I came home and re-watched the film which I hadn't seen for years and enjoyed it more. You do need the ethereal beauty of Miranda and that haunting Australian landscape. Last night's girls in blazers looked more like escapees from Marcia Blaine School. Only 3* from me but I see that a TV adaptation is coming soon.

Oh, it was a very chilly night for a 3* outing and I was definitely wondering why I'd bothered when I could have been at home with a good book and a bottle of wine. I had to chivvy myself out tonight, thinking, 'This had better be good!'  - and it was, this time it was 5*. (I had to remind myself when a mouse shot out from under my seat on the platform on the way home! Perhaps it sniffed the nice sourdough loaf I'd bought for breakfast.)   

A Wedding is such a powerful film - like a Greek tragedy - inspired by the true story of a westernised Belgian-Pakistani girl pressured into an arranged marriage by her deeply loving but traditional family in 2007. I'd love to say, 'Do go and see it,' but tonight was a one-off showing and there are no plans for even limited UK release. But there's an English trailer and quite a long extract here (with a massive spoiler in the final two minutes, so don't watch to the end if you think you might buy the DVD!) It's nominated for a César - as best foreign film, even though it's in French - but it's up against big budget movies like Dunkirk and La La Land so it doesn't seem a very even playing field. For my vote, it's better than Dunkirk!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Bar shoes, 1920-25

Wouldn't you just love a pair of dance shoes like these ... and they came from the Co-op, which was evidently rather more glam in the Twenties than when I had a Saturday job there 50 years later.

I had a spare hour this afternoon and dropped in at Two Temple Place to see their jazz exhibition. (Just the right size and it's free!)

Tea Dance, Mabel Frances Layng
This tea dance looks rather sedate; mummy wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. I googled Mabel Frances Layng when I got home. She had an exhibition organised by her sister in 1938 shortly after she died; I think it's time for another ... Don't they all look like characters from a Persephone book? (I discovered another woman artist, too, the working class Cockney Grace Golden, who did some lovely drawings of Sherry's dance hall in Brighton - it featured in Brighton Rock so perhaps you wouldn't have met the right kind of young man there. I couldn't find any images of her dance hall drawings but here's her obituary.)

But this would have been a swanky night out; look at the orchids and the hats.

Design for the interior of Fischer's restaurant, New Bond Street, Raymond McGrath 
It would have been more fun, if less respectable, to go dancing in Harlem to 'music hot and strong enough to make a tadpole whip a whale.' But would you be up for fried hog maw on the way home? (Actually, I would; I love anything greasy and meaty.) The 5s menu at the Cave of the Golden Calf in 1912 must have been expensive then and sounds rather smarter: poulet Diogené, whatever that is - I can't be bothered getting Larousse down from the shelf - and strawberry crème Margot. In fact, the Golden Calf, in a basement off Regent Street, was extremely louche- and I can't imagine a crème de menthe hangover!

Harlem, 1934, Edward Burra

I didn't know that after 1935 government restrictions prohibited whole American dancebands from coming to Britain, which put an end to the Jazz Age. (Annoyingly, the curator didn't explain why. I'd have thought it was worth more than a sentence!)

I'm enjoying this lovely book; I wouldn't say that it's as readable as Tirzah Garwood's charming autobiography, but the illustrations are a delight and a happy reminder of that wonderful exhibition at Eastbourne last year. (If you missed it, it's transferring soon to Compton Verney which would make a lovely spring day out.)

Helen Binyon and Eric Ravilious at Furlongs, 1940s, Peggy Angus
Apparently, Virginia Woolf would often pass within five yards of the kitchen door at Furlongs as she cycled to see her sister at Charleston - but the social gulf between Bloomsbury and the primitive cottage with earth floors and earth closet was too wide for her ever to have stopped for a cup of tea.
What a shame ... Tea at Furlongs seems so delightful, although no doubt the table was laid and cups were washed-up grudgingly by the women artists while the men got on with becoming more famous.

Tea at Furlongs, Eric Ravilious, 1939

Sunday, 11 February 2018

If you've been watching the BBC series A Stitch in Time, you might like to know that the costumes made for the series are all on display at Ham House. I had a quick browse this morning and was suitably impressed by all the teeny-tiny buttons on Charles II's coat, inspired by this portrait (of which there is a version at Ham.) More than 100 little buttons so Charles's espousal of the sober-coloured man's suit wasn't as thrifty and democratic as it sounds; that's a lot of tailoring and a lot of time spent doing them up.

I meant to walk the long way round and find a bit of plum blossom to take home but it was such a muddy day I chickened out and caught the bus.  But there were signs of spring in the garden,  snowdrops and primroses and a few daffodils. 

Friday, 9 February 2018

I'm guessing that everyone who visits here is old enough to remember that 'Bunnies can and will go to France.' I've had my head buried in this brilliant - and hilarious - book about the Jeremy Thorpe scandal for the past two days. In bed until the crack of dawn - on the train - during the interval at a concert last night, when I felt like shouting, 'Hold the Elgar - there's a lady in the Circle needs to finish her chapter!' It's a real page-turner, superbly well-researched (and well-written) and as gripping as a thriller, even though you know the ending. Hired assassins, dead dogs on Exmoor ... you couldn't make it up! There's a TV adaptation coming up with Hugh Grant as Thorpe (suitably charismatic/slimy but perhaps not quite cadaverous enough) and Ben Whishaw, who I imagine will be absolutely brilliant as Norman Scott. Easily the best book I've read so far this year; it's ages since I've been so engrossed.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

I can't be bothered watching sit-coms but with such a stellar cast - John Cleese (his first sit-com since Fawlty Towers), Alison Steadman, Anne Reid - I thought Hold the Sunset had to be worth a try.
It wasn't.
Same old ...
Even a cast like this can't do much with a trite, hackneyed script.

Monday, 5 February 2018

I wanted to love this - its heart is in the right place - but oh dear, so earnest and repetitive and far too long; it could lose 150 pages and you wouldn't have missed a thing. Published in 1938, it begins with the return of a young woman reporter to her Yorkshire hometown (based on Leeds) to care for her querulous, sickly mother. It's really about the intertwining lives of different social classes: well-meaning Tory gentry; the dysfunctional, wealthy family of a dour self-made man; old-school Labour activists and an impatient young Communist; as well as the great mass of cheery don't knows and don't cares and a pretty millgirl who aspires to gentrification in the form of a proper bathroom and a  three-piece suite on the never-never. The ingredients are all there, but the characters are suffocating under so much politics and it's a bit like being lectured by a finger-wagging speaker at a public meeting. It's remniscent of North and South, South Riding, Love on the Dole ... but National Provincial feels dated rather than a forgotten classic. It does, of course, convey the mood of political urgency of 1938 - of a world edging towards disaster - but a lighter touch would have made a better novel.
I knew I'd read National Provincial before, not all that long ago but it hadn't stuck in my mind and after I'd written this, I thought that maybe I'd posted about it previously, too. Well, I had, and clearly enjoyed it rather more the first time. To be fair, it does start off very promisingly. Looking at the date stamps in my library copy, it's evident that nobody has checked it out in the interim! 
Odalisque in Grisaille, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres,c1824-34

Did it really last longer than any other January or do we say that every year? Well, it's over. I'm glad to see some chilly sunshine and crocuses; I've even spotted a few primroses. Okay, so I wrote that a couple of days ago and the sunshine vanished in time for the weekend - but I'm emerging from hibernation. Maybe it's the vitamin C in all those blood oranges I'm eating! (Rose oranges seems to be the newest euphemism for the squeamish!) I've got three big sunshiney vases of daffodils, narcissi, tulips, marigolds and yellow roses in my study. (That's because when you're out and about, you catch the big bouquets knocked down to £1 or £2 on the way home.) I'm feeling energised and ready to go again. Two films and a play last week (the National Theatre tour of Hedda Gabler, which was very different from any HG I've seen before) and two concerts booked for this week. I don't feel quite so much energy at the thought of attacking the spiders' webs that show up in the sunshine!
Perversely, as I was enjoying a blast of colour, I then chose to catch the Monochrome exhibition at the National Gallery before it closes; hardly anybody there and very interesting.
Etienne Moulinneuf, c1770

This one is very clever. It's a painting of a print of a painting. (Chardin's La Pourvoyeuse which is on display nearby.) That trompe l'oeil broken glass is very convincing and made me smile.

Agony in the Garden,  Genoese, 1538

This was quite astonishing. It's BIG, part of a set of hangings painted in white on indigo cloth for a temporary chapel in Genoa during Holy Week - a kind of religious pop-up. It wasn't unusual to paint in black/grey on white cloth, but the Genoese had invented a fabric that French merchants called Gênes. It made me think of those outsize pairs of Levi's that you used to see in shop window displays years ago.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Makala means 'charcoal' in Swahili. This film won the critics' prize at Cannes. (A foreign film, for once, that's not just on in London. Dublin and Manchester, too, that's almost general release!) I nearly cried off this evening as I was swamped with work but I'm so glad that I just got up from my desk and walked out the door. (Sshh. Don't tell on me.)
It's a documentary but it's almost like a road movie. It follows a Congolese charcoal maker from the opening scene where we see him felling an enormous tree until he sells his load of charcoal at market. We see him sketching plans for his dream house, three rooms roofed with metal sheets - if only he can manage to save enough to buy 15 metal sheets. And then he wants to plant fruit trees, oranges and apples; he has been saving orange pips. You see his wife grilling a rat for the family meal.
But mostly the film is on the road as he pushes his bicycle, heavily laden with sacks of charcoal, on a dusty road, 30 miles to the market in town. You feel every backbreaking shove and push. Your heart is in your mouth for him as lorries whizz past him in the night; his life seems so precarious, and what will happen to his family if he suffers an accident? And then as he nears the town, you see all the others pushing similar loads. He makes this journey once a month. He is one of many.
There's no voiceover or commentary. But the director of the film was there tonight to answer questions. And reassure us that the young man has been able to build his house with the metal roof. I hope his orange trees flourish. There's a review here and a trailer here.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

If you only enjoy half of a novel, I suppose you can only give it 5/10 - but the half that I enjoyed, I enjoyed very much. This is a London novel and its characters tramp miles across its pages, far better walkers than I am. Past and present are intertwined. In 1851, Joseph Benson is hired as a researcher, interviewing prostitutes rather too thoroughly for Henry Mayhew's newspaper articles that will later become London Labour and the London Poor. Joseph and his family - he is married to the sister of his deceased first wife - live in a rented house in Lamb's Conduit Street ... heavens, could it be the site of Persephone Books? Or one of those houses by The Lamb pub? Joseph's researches lead him south of the river to Apricot Place where the exotic Mrs Dulcimer is running a lodging house for vulnerable girls and not, as Joseph assumes, a knocking shop. And in the 21st century, this is where Madeline has a basement flat and is sensitive to the lives that have been lived here in the past. And this I'm afraid is where I lost patience with the book because Madeline and every character in her social circle ... that is, every cardboard cut-out from the Guardian Book of Politically Correct and Desirable Neighbours (pregnant teen, gay best friend etc etc) ... are so boring that I couldn't have cared less what happened to any one of them. In fact, if you read the Victorian chapters and skip the modern stuff, you won't miss anything.
Yes, just whisk me back to 1851 ... the pies - the smells - the muddy pavements - the parlours - the alehouses ...
And one of these days I must seek out Cross Bones Graveyard. I'd never heard of it before.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Loved this sumptuous film last night - full of Provençal sunshine and colour - about the lifelong, but rocky friendship between Cézanne and Zola. But you do have to be up to speed on 19th century French history and who's who in artistic circles because if you can't keep up, it'll leave you behind. And now I really must get myself to the portraits exhibition before it closes.

I was much less impressed by Darkest Hour. I'd have given it the benefit of the doubt, for maybe I've reached saturation point with films about Churchill. (It doesn't seem two minutes since we had Brian Cox's interpretation last year.) But then came that much derided scene in the Tube carriage ... as Churchill uncharacteristically hops out of his official car to avoid a traffic jam and takes to the District Line for a one-stop journey from St James's Park to Westminster. In a carriage full of gor-blimey, salt-of-the-earth Londoners. What tosh. What complete drivel. And how many cinema-goers are now convinced that this really happened?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Since announcing that I really must read The Masters ('the best academic novel in English'), I've discovered that the Strangers and Brothers cycle is being repeated this week on Radio Four. So that's my lunchtimes sorted. Timely, as I am forced to admit that I've rather lost the McMafia plot; anybody else losing track of who's who? All the younger characters look exactly the same!

Monday, 15 January 2018

I'm suffering from a bad attack of January lethargy; not being a morning person, I never seem to catch the day before it's nearly over and it doesn't seem worth setting out. But at long last, having been scheduling a visit to Dulwich Picture Gallery pretty much every day since before Christmas, I made it to the Tove Jansson exhibition for the last hour or so yesterday afternoon ... and it was packed, busier than I'd ever seen it there before. Silly me, when I could easily have gone on a weekday. (It would have been a good idea to book.)

I have to confess that I've never read the Moomin books; I'm not sure that they'd have appealed to me as a child. Now I can see their charm.
But there's only so many Moomins you can take in one afternoon. I was interested to see her satirical illustrations from the 1930s - when, if you look closely, the Snork sometimes appears beside her signature ...

And her extraordinary illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.

This is her take on Gollum from The Hobbit, more like a startled woodland spirit than the slimy creature of my imagination.

For all that she wanted to be taken seriously as a painter, her paintings aren't terribly interesting - apart from a series of self-portraits.

On the way home I kept my eyes peeled for snowdrops - I still haven't seen my first snowdrop, possibly because I've barely been out in daylight. No luck - I'm desperate for a glimmer of spring - but I did pick a branch of catkins and they're now in a vase with a wonderfully garish bunch of tulips which makes me smile every time I look at them. First bunch of the year. There were sweet williams in Tesco but that just ain't right!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

I opted for Dorothy L Sayers as an undemanding read over Christmas, thinking that I'd read Gaudy Night again - but I'd forgotten how terribly wordy it is, all those arch quotations from clever people.  And I still couldn't keep track of who's who amongst all those female dons. Then it struck me that I'd never read Strong Poison, the earlier book that explains how Lord Peter Wimsey saved Harriet Vane from the gallows. Much shorter, much brisker, and Harriet - who can be rather irritating - is safely out of action in Holloway Prison throughout. Funny how Lord Peter seems to have changed over the course of two books; is it spurned love? He seems much more urbane and sophisticated in Oxford and not nearly so much of a chinless but brainy wonder.

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Sunday cinema ladies - both of us - reconvened for the first time this year and just to keep us on our toes, we chose a Friday evening outing instead. I'm never sure if it's worth posting about foreign films when they're on for one night only in London but there was a good turn-out for this Latvian film and maybe it'll show up again at a festival somewhere.  We've seen several films recently with outstanding performances by child actors (Soleil Battant, The Florida Project) and this was another, about a wayward 12-year-old whose mischief is tipping into delinquency; there's a trailer here (in Latvian, sorry).

Thursday, 11 January 2018

I know almost nothing about the life of Jenny Joseph who died a few days ago. I'd have thought that she'd have merited an obituary in the Times or the Guardian, but I can't find one as yet. All that I've discovered is that she wrote her famous poem when she was 29 and that she hated purple - but I do hope that she learned how to spit. What I'd love to learn as an outrageous old lady is how to wolfwhistle very loudly with my fingers in my mouth ... you could have some fun doing that.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

I'm in two minds about this. I love the cover; it's irresistible. (Despite the aberrant apostrophe on the back. Praise for Howard's End is on the Landing! Sloppy.)
But 250-odd pages in the company of Susan Hill? She feels like a grumpy neighbour who makes you feel, 'Oh, god! How long am I going to be stuck?' as she's approaching. (I admit it. I can do grumpy old woman with the best. See that apostrophe grouch above? Typical.)
Anyway, Susan Hill ... She's great chatting away about books and I've made a note to myself that I really must get around to reading CP Snow's The Masters, which has lingered in a pile on Mary's Landing for far too many years, gathering dust.
But then she drones on and repeats herself. On and on, word for word, about the silly questions students put to her about The Woman in Black. And the weather. She doesn't like it when it's hot; she doesn't like the cold. Her opinions seem set in stone. She doesn't like Jane Austen and she's never read Jane Eyre. (We all have gaps in our reading but that's an odd one, and she sounds rather proud of it!) She would love to visit the Northern Lights, 'but I don't suppose I ever shall?' Well, why not? I wanted to shout ... all those royalties rolling in from The Woman in Black. Get out there. Live a life. Stop burying yourself in all those books. Her interest in Antarctica is extinguished once she realises that people go there on holiday and she takes 27 books about the white continent to the charity shop.
Normally I feel that reading is a Good Thing. But Susan Hill depresses me.
But then she's very good on Aelred of Rievaulx and she puts her finger on why I don't much like Barbara Pym and and she makes me want to re-read Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy. Like I said, I'm in two minds. Perhaps Susan Hill is better dipped into and taken in small doses rather than read straight through. But Susan Hill is Due Back at the Library.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Feeding the Fowls

We braved a truly horrible day for a bus jaunt to the Watts Gallery to see the Helen Allingham exhibition. When we've visited in spring, the woods have been full of celandines. anemones and primroses; yesterday it was torrential rain and muddy puddles. Straight into the cafe to warm up with tea and Welsh rarebit, then a whizz around the exhibition with two boys who, predictably, turned out to be vocal critics of the Hollyhocks and Cottages School of English Art. 'If I had money, I wouldn't buy that,' said one. Well, neither would I, though I'd be happy if one came to me in a will from a longlost relative. And on a grim, grey day, I enjoyed the riotous herbaceous borders, whilst thinking that those picturesque cottages were an insanitary health hazard for the rural poor. Expect they were delighted to be moved into council semis a generation later.

The Little Path, Kitchen Garden, Sharston Manor, Cheshire

I think I was more engrossed by Helen Allingham's illustrations in Victorian weekly magazines, especially those for the Cornhill Magazine serial of Far From the Madding Crowd. (Thomas Hardy said she was his all-time favourite illustrator.)

I also enjoyed her little portrait of Tennyson, especially after revisiting the whopping great plaster maquette by Watts in the sculpture gallery. Not a must-see exhibition but a pleasant start to the New Year. And it got me out of the house because two weeks of Christmas is too much!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Great cinematic start to the New Year with a brilliant performance by Frances McDormand in Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; there's a trailer here. Nearly, but maybe not quite as good as his rib-clutchingly funny In Bruges. Does anyone remember The Leenane Trilogy? I saw the three plays back to back one Saturday and it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen in a theatre.

Monday, 1 January 2018

I'm guessing you need to be American born and raised (or perhaps a Pillsbury shareholder) to gaze upon this Hot Fudge-Marshmallow Monkey Bread without heaving but it made the finals in the 2010 Pillsbury Bake Off, the $1 million contest that makes GBBO look like a cranky health food promotion.
By chance this afternoon I came across this funny talk by Laura Shapiro at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, an event I would dearly love to attend. I particularly liked the sound of turkey eleganté (note the sophisticated accent!) made from frozen turkey spread with Spam and anchovy paste and baked in a pie. Pizza Wellington made with meatloaf - perhaps not officially recognised in Naples - was a homage to beef Wellington. Magic marshmallow crescent puffs from 1969 were a forerunner of molecular gastronomy and got a religious twist when they were adopted at Easter as Resurrection Rolls. Sadly, I am not immune to this kind of thing as Waitrose chocolate and ginger mince pies, a 10p bargain that a stronger woman would resist, are warming through in the oven as I write. But when they're finished, that's it - the season of indulgence is officially over!

My last exhibition of 2017 was actually some weeks ago; good intentions since then got overtaken by Christmas and horrid weather and a nasty cold. But although EH Shepard's Winnie-the-Pooh illustrations are delightful, the exhibition at the V&A is a damp squib. I was expecting something amazing as it's their first-ever family exhibition and it was designed by the chap who did the poppies at the Tower of London ... but honestly, Christopher Robin's nursery - I've seen better room sets in IKEA. The big, gaping hole in the exhibition, of course, is that the original toys are in New York and haven't been loaned.

One of the highlights of 2017 was the Vermeer exhibition in Dublin but for sheer enjoyment, I'd love to revisit the British Realists in Edinburgh. I was pleased I made the trip to Eastbourne to see Ravilious & Co , even though I didn't get around to writing about it. In London, I think I enjoyed some of the smaller exhibitions best, like Opus Anglicanum at the V&A and these lovely fabrics at the Fashion Museum. Of course, one reason why I look back over the year is to remind myself about lovely things I've forgotten ... no, not forgotten, but things do sink into the sludge of one's middle-aged brain! And as I did something quite thrilling on January 7th, it was good to revisit my literary experience of the year.

Out of all the 30-odd films I've seen this year, far and away the best was a golden oldie. Although I did enjoy The Florida Project, too.

Happy New Year to everybody who visits here. It's always a pleasure to hear from you and I'm touched that you stop by to read.