Sunday, 17 February 2019



I'm fairly resistant to posters that urge, 'Prepare to be blown away' ... but I was blown away this morning by this heart-wrenching film and by the young Syrian refugee who plays the lead role. The cinema was packed -  there are posters all over London - and it has my vote for a well-deserved Oscar. (Although I've just checked out the competition and have to admit that I've only seen one of the other films in this category.)
Read more about it here and here.

Thursday, 14 February 2019



On my way to meet a friend for a film tonight, I stopped at the Portland Gallery to see their Mary Fedden exhibition which is always a joy. The green painted chair in this painting was on sale; only £6,900! it came from her studio. The painting considerably more - but wouldn't it be fun to buy both? (Although I have artist friends who would rescue a chair like that from a skip and paint it for pennies.)



I always like playing, "Which one would I choose?" Something bathed in sunshine. I'm reading about the Durrells in Corfu and this has the right feel, although it's Brittany.



Or one with flowers and fruit? (The exhibition closes on Friday if you're tempted.)



I love gallery browsing in this part of town; there's always something ... and this caught my eye in a gallery window. 'Looks like a Frith,' I thought and went in for a closer look. Then I remembered that I'd seen it not so long ago at the Royal Academy. (They're all there, Trollope, Gladstone. Millais, Oscar Wilde.) It's on the market for the first time in 135 years.
I'm cheeky, so I asked the price. £9 million.
Gulp. Makes a little Mary Fedden seem quite achievable.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019



Ecarlate, silk faille afternoon dress, 1955

I spent a blissful afternoon today at the V&A's Dior exhibition ... and ladies, it is simply ravissante, one exquisite gown after another. As the reviewers say, no social context at all - but does it need to be spelled out? I'm quite aware of the post-war impact of the New Look because it didn't take much to get my mum reminiscing about the allure of full skirts with their yards and yards of fabric. I do think the V&A might have shown some of the punishing corsetry that it took to achieve those tiny waists. And prices. I'd love to know  - but if you have to ask, you can't afford it. Wasn't Mrs Harris's Temptytion four hundred and fifty quid?

Temptation was a black velvet gown, floor-length, encrusted half-way from the bottom up with a unique design picked out in beads of jet that gave to the skirt weight and movement. The top was a froth of cream, delicate pink, and white chiffon, tulle and lace ...

I was half expecting to see Temptytion on display this afternoon. (Incidentally, I got there at 3pm and to my amazement, it wasn't crowded. But don't dillydally if you need to book as I think it's already sold out until May.)  



There was this chic grey wool ensemble from Olivia de Havilland's wedding trousseau in 1955. And Princess Margaret's 21st birthday gown (with rather an ugly belt). And the most delicious little black dresses and hats that all seemed to have belonged to Margot Fonteyn.



 Look at the fabrics  ...




And the toiles ...

The garden room is enchanting, a pergola of cut-out paper wisteria and lilac roses.

I adore the English, dressed not only in the tweeds that suit them so well, but also in these flowing dresses, in subtle colours, which they have worn inimitably since the days of Gainsborough.





Lilies of the valley were Dior's favourite flower.

























Not so sure about the Galliano years. Although Marie Antoinette would have have loved it.




And this was exquisite ...



But this wasn't! You look at every single one of the 1950s dresses and think, "If only ..." The recent ones - not so much. But do go. It's a fabulous exhibition.

Thursday, 7 February 2019



I enjoyed my (very chilly) after-hours ghost tour here this week, even though not a single one of the 15 resident ghosts chose to appear; not so much as a whiff of ghostly tobacco smoke on the haunted staircase - you're warned to be careful on the third step!
At least now I can boast that I've seen one of the treasures of the house - the pathetic little skeleton of the King Charles spaniel that haunts the house.  The bones were discovered by gardeners after a storm uncovered a burial urn under a tree - so it must be true that they belong to the ghost dog?
I'd love to see him!
But I did see the first solitary primrose in the garden - and lots of snowdrops.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019



I haven't done too well with my January resolution to post here more regularly; maybe I'll liven up now spring is in sight ... at least I'm telling myself it is because I've got vases full of daffodils and Scilly Islands narcissi and a pot of hyacinths opening up. (What is it with supermarket hyacinths ... I love the scent but it doesn't seem to be as strong these days?)
I feel as if I've been hibernating but I have ventured out to the cinema, so here's a round-up. My Sunday morning cinema pal had a previous brunch date so I ventured out on my own this week to see Green Book - the true(ish) story of a black concert pianist and his Italian-American chauffeur-bodyguard on a two-month concert tour of the American South in the 1960s - which I thoroughly enjoyed, despite some snippy reviews suggesting that it's patronising; I thought it tackled racial prejudice in the segregated south with a light touch. And it'll reach a much broader audience than, say, The Rape of Recy Taylor ... okay, that was one of the best films I saw last year - but so gruelling, it was never going to get a wide distribution.
I'd never heard of The Green Book which was a kind of Michelin Guide for black Americans listing hotels and restaurants where they would be welcome. Even the Wikipedia entry makes shocking reading. It reminded me very much of this Persephone book, The Expendable Man. (Warning: link contains spoilers ... just read the book!)



Last night I saw Boy Erased, based on another true story about the son of Baptist parents who is forced to undergo gay conversion therapy. There's a trailer here. It's an interesting story but this time I'd agree with the Guardian's 2* (maybe I'd give it 3*) Too slick - too American - and I could do without Nicole Kidman as the mother.  I couldn't help comparing it with the last film I saw about religious fundamentalism breaking up families; and Apostasy was infinitely better ... as ever, it got very limited distribution. (I persuaded a friend and her daughter to go and they agreed with me - one of the best films of last year.)

I was looking forward to A Private War - about the awe-inspiring war correspondent Marie Colvin - but this excellent documentary (coming soon on BBCFour) was far more gripping.

What else? Well, I went to see Alien ... 40 years on and boy, does it look dated - but I still jumped in all the right places.



As for All Is True ... what an extremely dull poster ... I felt a bit so-what about this film about Shakespeare's retirement to Stratford and family life after the fire at the Globe. But it does look sumptuous - a real sense of living in candlelit shadows - and Judi Dench is terrific as Anne Hathaway.    But I think I nodded off so it didn't pass the all-important snooze test!

Tuesday, 8 January 2019



I've tried - quite recently I tried again - but I've always given up on Claudine/Colette after a few pages. And I kind of agree with Willy's verdict in the film: 'It's too cloying. It's too feminine.' Anyway, it's not for me.
As for the film - my first film of the year - it had all the ingredients ... but I was snoozing just resting my eyes by the end. Fabulous frocks and Art Nouveau interiors - and Dominic West is fun as the preposterous Willy - but it's still a bit wooden. As for Keira Knightley, this quote pretty much summed it up:
'You have the most beautiful teeth.'
'Like an alligator.'
Whatever she's in, I find myself riveted by all that 21st century dentistry. Still, I suppose if they hadn't cast Keira, it would have been Lily James - and that's no better.
But if you're looking for a movie this week, I'd choose The Favourite instead.

Monday, 7 January 2019



Fun afternoon (albeit painfully cramped) at the tiny Orange Tree Theatre this afternoon listening to Martin Jarvis (in his stockinged feet because of squeaky floor covering!) recording a couple of Just William stories for the BBC. I was expecting an audience of small, scruffy boys but apart from a very few - out with grandparents and looking rather bored - well, let's just say that most of the audience could have travelled there on their bus passes. (As did I. I love my bus pass!)
I felt a bit sad that little boys no longer read William; but I've tried to coax them and they don't want to know.