Sunday 27 February 2011

One of my favourite Persephone books - in fact, one of my favourite books ever - is Marghanita Laski's Little Boy Lost.
I've never seen the 1952 film with Bing Crosby but look what I found on YouTube.
It sounds better in French.
But it's easy to see why Laski hated the film.
Violets and violins, indeed!

Thursday 24 February 2011

The first celandines were out in the woods today.
I left my scarf at home.
But wished I had wellies.
Because the mud was squelchy and deep.
On the way home I saw two blue tits crossing the road.
Why did the bluetit ...?
What's wrong with flying?
Are they worried about their carbon footprint?

Sunday 20 February 2011

No wonder I was still thinking pink when I went to this exhibition of Chinese robes at the V&A.
(Even though the emperor's colour was yellow.)
I'd just been to tea at this very pink teashop.
A hop and a skip from the house where Mozart once lived. (I'm sure Mozart would have liked tea and layer cakes.)
And then I nipped in to a very desirable parfumerie for a free spritz of rose absolue scent.
It is a very exclusive part of London.
There were piles of tweedy blankets on the benches outside another cafe, so customers could snuggle over a cappuccino on chilly days.
And nobody had nicked them.
How posh is that!

Saturday 19 February 2011

I wasn't swept off my feet by this exhibition of one of my favourite contemporary artists, John Wonnacott.
'Underwhelming,' said the friend I met on his way out, as I went in.
(It didn't help that they were shown in a sterile, new gallery.)
Even these ballet paintings didn't have the energy and tension of the cityscapes of London and New York that he was painting a few years ago.
I remember lingering after the gallery closed, unable to tear myself away.
But today, I drifted in ... and drifted out again.
(The painting on the right was bought by the Tate about 15 years ago. That's what I mean.
But, heavens, was it really that long ago?)

Thursday 17 February 2011

Think pink! Think pink, when you shop for summer clothes,
Think pink! Think pink, if you want that quelquechose.
Red is dead. Blue is through.
Green's obscene. Brown's taboo.
And there is not the slightest excuse for plum or puce.
Or chartreuse.

What a delight ... Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face on television and at lunchtime, too, so I didn't even need to feel guilty.
And don't you love that bookshop where she's working at the start of the film?
And the balloons - and Paris - and that flowerstall and armfuls of mimosa - and the gowns - and that tear running down Audrey's cheek when she's wearing the wedding dress ...
Even if Fred Astaire is far, far too old for her!
Walking down the road
I saw drifts of crocuses
On my neighbour's lawn
And hellebores
In the garden of what I think of
As the witch's house.
(It is dark and shrubby
And I have never liked
Those bergenias.)
I realised that I have spent
Too much time indoors
Lately. Because when I ventured
Into my own garden
I picked twigs of forsythia
And pink buds of sharp-scented currant.
That I hadn't even noticed
Until yesterday.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Like hearing the first cuckoo of spring,
Today I heard someone say,
For the first time this year,
'On a day like this
It's just like the Riviera.'
There was blue sky
And bright blue sea,
And leaves unfurling,
Jackets left open
And gloves left at home ...
And they were right.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

There were blue skies over Bloomsbury today.
(Doesn't that sound nice?)
As I headed for the Foundling Museum to see this poignant exhibition of fabric scraps that represent the forlorn hopes of impoverished 18th-century mothers that one day they might be reunited with the babies they were handing into institutional care.
You can see the exhibition online here. Or look at this video.
Every scrap of ribbon or clumsily embroidered memento tells the story of someone's breaking heart.
And yearning for the future.
To prevent any mistake when the Child is demanded a Yellow Ribbon is fix'd round him over his Right Shoulder and under his left Arm with Room to allow for his growing it is Humbly desir'd he may always wear it.
Not all of the children were illegitimate; as many as one-third were born to married parents who had fallen on hard times. A pretty pink and white ribbon was deposited with Foundling No. 7000 whose parents begged for her to be taken care of.
They will pay all Charges in a little Time with a handsome acknowledgment for the same and have her Home again when they Get over a little Trouble they are in: She is not a bastard Child.
And when Sarah Harbeson's mother had to part with her, at only six weeks old, she urged the hospital to remember that She has had the Breast and tis humbly hop'd it will be continued as she will not in all probability live without it.
Sometimes all a mother had to leave was a scrap of flannel; but there's more finery here than you'd imagine ... a swatch of silver ribbon, a tangle of expensive silk braid, a patchwork needlecase embroidered with a heart cut in two. (A happy ending to one story at least because this little boy was reunited with his mum when he was seven.)
I wondered if some of these ribbons held memories of courtship and romance and more carefree days. If they were gifts from sweet-talking lovers who had left a girl in the lurch?
Reading between the lines, you glimpse flashes of defiant courage ... Florella Burney's mother gave up her daughter on the day she was born, in 1758. But, as she named her, surely she must have thought that life held greater promise for a Florella than a plain Mary or Ann.
Pray let particulare care be take'en off this Child, As it will be call'd for again.
Alas, no foundling orphan could have a fancy name like Florella who was renamed Mary Dench.
Her mother never claimed her and she was apprenticed as a milliner when she was 11.
(I do hope she was all right. Think of all those cads in novels who made free with milliners and seamstresses.)
There weren't many happy endings. Of more than 16,000 babies admitted between 1741 and 1760, only 152 were reclaimed by their parents.
Such oceans of tears and heartache ...
And what would those mothers have thought had they known that their sad little tokens of love would be viewed by strangers in a museum 250 years later?