Saturday, 18 July 2020

The Swing, Fragonard
Can't honestly say that I woke up yesterday thinking, 'Great day for the Wallace Collection!" - oh, to be able to go places on a whim! - but I'd booked, so I was going, heatwave or not! Advance planning doesn't come naturally ... but nor does staying at home! Turns out that travelling by Tube into London is rather more comfortable than using the local buses which, after weeks of being like a private chauffeur service, are getting quite crowded.
If I'm completely honest, what I really, really enjoyed was a mooch down Marylebone High Street looking at the shops, browsing in Daunt Books, even stopping at Pret for an iced coffee. I'm really enjoying London's new normal ... enough people out and about to create the buzz of being in town, enjoying the sunshine and lunching at pavement tables, but no crowds and not much traffic. And everyone seems quite cheery and glad to be doing whatever's available.
So - if it's open, I'm going! The Wallace Collection - which is never crowded - seemed about as un-busy as any normal weekday, except that the cafe was closed. (They're only allowing 125 people per day but there's no problem booking.)
I used to visit here a lot as a child and loved all that froufrou Rococo stuff - but my tastes have changed and a little Fragonard and Marie Antoinette goes a long way.
Instead, I'm drawn to all those Protestant domestic virtues that I lack in real life!

Woman peeling Apples, de Hooch
Love that quiet satisfaction at peeling the apple all in one go!

The Lace Maker (Caspar Netscher) 

And this ... the exquisite detail of the lacemaker's cap, and her well-worn shoes, even the mussel shells and the odd straw left behind by her broom.

Though I also warmed to the domestic chaos of this cuckolded father wetting the baby's head.

Celebrating the Birth (Jan Steen)

Needless to say, I've already booked my first day at the V&A!

Thursday, 9 July 2020



Henri Fantin-Latour in the 1870s ...

And fashion photographer Nick Knight with extraordinary patience and Instagram.


Tuesday, 7 July 2020



I have to confess that I've never actually read it. Not that you could ever accuse me of gaining fulfilment from housework! But I've greatly enjoyed binge-watching Mrs America, with Tracey Ullman as the irascible Friedan and Cate Blanchett quite brilliant as Phyllis Schlafly, right-wing   warrior housewife, mother of six and scourge of the Women's Libbers: think manic Mrs Thatcher, in pearls and cemented hair-do, meets Mrs Mary Whitehouse with a generous dollop of religious fervour thrown into the mix. And to this day equal rights for women are not enshrined in the US Constitution.
Gloria Steinem, now 86 (oh, to look like that if I survive to 86!) wasn't impressed by the series. She has a point that the media love to stoke a catfight between women. But I still think it's a riveting slice of feminist history from an era that I lived through, but was probably too young and silly to appreciate. (Hangs head, but I used to flick through Spare Rib in the newsagent's - and buy Cosmo!)
Diana and Actaeon, Titian
My Super Saturday was spent in the National Gallery rather than the pub, so I'm culturally rebooted! First stop was the Titian exhibition that opened three days before lockdown.
Which might explain my cry of "Oooh, that's straight out of Ovid's Metamorphoses," at the sight of mermaids, goddesses and nymphs in this exquisite film launching Dior's A/W collection today. Mary Beard would be proud of me!
 Looking at the face-masks in this video, it all seems to have been made during lockdown.
Such beautiful, beautiful dresses!
Hylas and the Nymphs, John William Waterhouse

Of course, this sprang to mind, too.

Monday, 6 July 2020



I can never hear this without crying ... every time. What a genius he was.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020







And I'm back in business ... I've been sitting here with the biggest grin all afternoon! Yes, the National Gallery is re-opening and I've booked my slot for the very first day to see this (admission free) and this and maybe visit a few old favourites, too. (I'll have four hours. Is that enough? Well, my rusty knees won't hold out any longer!) Plenty of slots available if you're tempted.
Oh, I will never take our wonderful galleries and museums for granted again. I ❤️London!



Meanwhile, there's the exquisite Alessandra Ferri in Woolf Works from the ROH; I've watched the Mrs Dalloway section twice and it would break your heart. Further afield, I thoroughly enjoyed this Broadway production of Sondheim's Company. In fact, that's been the best thing about lockdown - I've been at the theatre several times a week! It's hard to keep up: I was enjoying the Bridge Theatre's lively Midsummer Night's Dream - but can't see myself managing to watch the second half before it vanishes tomorrow. Because I'll have to be quick if I want to catch Bernstein's Candide! I'll miss all these wonderful free productions that have been my new-normal! 

Sunday, 21 June 2020


I'm not quite antsy enough for a day out to queue for a rummage in Primark and even the local Waterstones doesn't hold much appeal. (Despite the nice man on the door coaxing me in with the promise that I could touch as many books as I like, it seems a bit unfair on staff to go in just for an idle browse). No, I'm pinning all my hopes on cinemas re-opening soon - especially when I read that they'd be testing the waters with arthouse films and oldies that are unlikely to attract a crowd - hurrah!
Meanwhile this week's grand excursion was to Osterley Park - with the added novelty of a first, albeit very short journey by Tube ... ladies, I appear to have survived! And somehow, despite many visits to Osterley in the past, I had never ventured into the pretty gardens that were a riot of poppies and overblown roses and sweet peas, and the scent of lilies was wafting out of this garden house. So I settled on a bench with my packed lunch and everybody who walked past stopped for a friendly chat and said how glad they were to be out, too ...



And I was thrilled to see that the quirky little bookshop in the old railway station was open - for books/cards/pumpkin plants ... business as normal!

I have resigned myself to the fact that I am watching FAR too much TV - so square-eyed now, I think I need a new lens prescription! But I am greatly enjoying The Great, billed as the 'occasionally true' story of Catherine the Great of Russia, from the same writer as The Favourite. Nicholas Hoult is brilliant as Emperor Peter, it's great fun - and miles more enjoyable than that stodgy effort by Helen Mirren last year.