Saturday 30 June 2012

This is not a blog where you will ever hear the f-word.
But when a friend suggested putting 'chicken' before the names of Italian footballers - even though I'd never heard of them, they did sound rather delicious.

Chicken Buffon 
Chicken Maggio 
Chicken Chiellini 
Chicken Ogbonna 
Chicken Balzaretti Chicken Abate 
Chicken Barzagli Chicken Bonucci 
Chicken Motta 
Chicken Marchisio Chicken Giaccherini 
Chicken De Rossi 
Chicken Montolivo 
Chicken Pirlo Chicken Diamanti Chicken Nocerino 
Chicken Balotelli 
Chicken Cassano Chicken Di Natale Chicken Borini 
Chicken Giovinco
Pollo nocerino sounds like chicken with hazelnuts; pollo Barzagli has a Hungarian paprika feel, don't you think; pollo Marchisio comes with asparagus; de Rossi must be red wine sauce; pollo Chiellini might be poached in brodo with pasta shapes and pollo di Natale is probably studded with truffles. 
Now if only I had a glass of Chianti and a packet of breadsticks ... 

Friday 29 June 2012

On my way home from work yesterday, I decided it was worth five minutes' hot and sticky trudge along horrible Marylebone Road, thundering with traffic ...
To find myself among the roses in Queen Mary's Rose Garden
On a comfortable bench
With a cup of tea and a slice of Bakewell tart
Reading a chapter or two of Virginia Woolf
And thinking what a lovely way to end the day.
Which is pretty much what I was doing this time last year and the year before.
Sorry to be so predictable.
But I still love roses the colour of sherbet oranges.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

This afternoon I discovered a secret garden.
It wasn't supposed to be open but I asked nicely ...
I have been to the Barbican many times before and never realised it was there  -
But isn't it fabulous?

Sunday 24 June 2012

Despite unprecedented feats of forward planning earlier this week, normal behaviour has now been resumed. Frantic flurry at the last minute is so much more my style.
Now I can't deny that I came across a mention of Miriam Margolyes' one-woman show Dickens' Women about two or three weeks ago. At the Pentland Theatre ... well, I thought that was in Scotland. Wouldn't you?
Come on, you London readers, own up ... has any one of you ever heard of the Pentland Theatre?
I thought not. But some good fairy guided me back to that website only three days ago and I realised that the Pentland Theatre is at the end of the Northern Line. In Finchley. Tucked behind the Aldi supermarket. But actually, a lovely little theatre once you get inside. (Couldn't have got lost on Saturday night. Just follow the police sirens and when you see the protesting Zionists, you're there. Can't miss it. Although I think this last feature may be unique to Finchley. Ticket prices are not necessarily inclusive of street theatre in other locations.)

But anyway, that's how I came to get one of the last seats in the slips for last night's performance.
Here is the link to the rest of the tour. To far-flung corners of the UK, followed by the US and Canada.

What can I say ... this was one of the best nights of theatre that I have ever seen in my life. She is brilliant. The Inimitable Miriam Margolyes gave a performance that couldn't have been matched by the Inimitable Dickens himself. (Oh, he would have loved it ... I hope his ghost was hovering somewhere.)
She started with Mrs Gamp ... and then one after another, on they came, simpering girls, then Miss Mowcher (a tour de force), Mrs Micawber, Miss Havisham, Mr Bumble's courtship (hilarious), Flora Finching (even more hilarious, and sad), Miss Flite (utterly heartbreaking.)

If only English teachers could bring Dickens to life like this ...  In the Q&A session afterwards,  incidentally, MM prescribed reading Dickens aloud from the age of 11. No nonsense about him being inaccessible and irrelevant.

Talking to a friend the other day, we agreed that we feel much more engaged by Dickens 2012 than all the razzmatazz surrounding the Jubilee and the obscenely expensive Olympics.
Between the two of us, this year, we have read three novels, plan to read more, have booked for afternoon tea at Gads Hill, have been to readings, performances, children's events, the Museum of London exhibition, read fat biographies, joined in book group discussions, met Dickens' descendants, well, one of them ...
I feel much prouder to be British because of our wonderful literature than I could possibly feel because one pumped-up athlete runs milliseconds faster than another.

Saturday 23 June 2012

I sat down on the bench, thinking, 'This is the best ice-cream I have ever had in my life. Ever. Ever. Ever.'
Then the woman beside me, who had shoved up for me, turned to me and said, 'This is the the best ice-cream I have ever had in my life.'
We had both chosen raspberry and mascarpone summer pudding ice-cream from here.
It tasted like summer 1976 when I had that straw hat with the bunch of poppies.
I wish I could remember who makes it. The young man who served me said it is made in Acton and that he sells on farmers' markets around London.

Friday 22 June 2012

Ladies, as one has to book now to be sure of a £10 seat to see Jude Law as Henry V -
not this coming December, oh, no,
but in December 2013 ...
I am relying on you to remind me that the tickets are in the top right hand drawer of the chest in the bedroom.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Whew ...  almost finished.

Hard to believe that it is almost 40 years since I last read this.

There's so much that I had forgotten. So much that I remember almost by heart.

It was so well worth coming back to.

But I'm not going to write an essay about it now.

Monday 11 June 2012

Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close
Oh dear, I thought, as I climbed the stairs to Grayson Perry's tapestry exhibition.
With typical middle-class angst, I realised too late that I was committing a social faux pas ... I had a Cath Kidston bag slung over my shoulder. (The real-life Mrs Perry - the lady with bobbed hair above - has one of those fancypants handbags that demands a chair of its own.)
But it was alright. I sighed with relief when I realised that most of the other women in the gallery were carrying M&S plastic carrier bags. I was with my own tribe.
How reassuring to know that the CK bag in Perry's Annunciation was the very same print as my ironing board cover at home. And there was my favourite Penguin Books mug ... well, mine is Great Expectations but the one in the tapestry is Knowing Laughter by Ewan Nonyew.
(I have been pondering on the amount of Cath Kidston in my life. Nearly every woman I know owns a CK bag and an ironing board cover. Even the ones like me who don't do any ironing. All I can say is, thank God, we didn't all go in for tattoos. Or spray tans.)

I'm so far from being a Grayson Perry fan that I didn't even go to the British Museum exhibition. But then so many other tribe members told me that I'd missed out, and there's nothing that distresses a fully signed-up member of the Penguin Mugs class more than missing out ...

He certainly got people talking to each other at the exhibition. (Great views over London once you get your breath back after climbing those stairs. Free to get in. But good grief, £15 for a packet of postcards ... hasn't he heard of the squeezed-middles?)

He even made me think I should take a more sympathetic view of my elderly aunt's collection of Lladró figurines. She talks wistfully about where it will go after she dies. I tell her it should go to someone who will appreciate it. And hope she gets the message that this someone is not me.
(On the other hand, when I go, feel free to chuck the Cath Kidston in a black bin bag.)

On the way back to the tube, it tickled to me to walk down Micawber Street, past some very Micawberish houses. Especially as I had a copy of David Copperfield in my commodious CK bag.
Then I stopped for a mug of tea in a famous greasy-spoon caff.
And noticed these dining rooms where you could buy a three-course meal for fourpence ha'penny in 1898 and 100 waitresses served 12,000 meals a day.

Saturday 9 June 2012

I can hold my head up on the beach this summer. I am the proud owner of this Orla Kiely bag. It seems to me that Grayson Perry missed a trick leaving Tesco designer bags out of his middle-class tapestry. Trust a bloke in a frock to get it wrong.
Of course, it is irredeemably middle-class to check out what they're fetching on e-Bay.
Bloody hell, my investment has more than doubled.
I'll be upper-class before you know it at this rate.

PS For the funniest commentary on the Jubilee pageant see here. Could it have been the dim sum that did for Prince Philip ... 

Friday 8 June 2012

I hadn't seen this for years (it has been digitally-restored and re-released) and I certainly didn't know that Billy Wilder was inspired by the man who lent his flat to Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter. But you couldn't miss how, fifty years later, The Apartment has influenced Mad Men ... the suits, the secretaries, the Martinis, the office Christmas party.
Maybe because I'd only seen it on television before, but I'd never noticed how visually stunning this movie is ... the views over New York, the dingily wallpapered stairs up to Jack Lemmon's apartment and his bachelor kitchenette. (The antithesis of the highly desirable lemon-yellow kitchen that had me and every other woman in the audience sighing at the Royal Opera House last week. Those Merry Wives of Windsor took enormous pride in their Formica.)
Who could resist Jack Lemmon draining spaghetti through a tennis racquet or modelling his Junior Executive hat? Like Breakfast at Tiffany's,  it's a movie that manages to be touching and tawdry at the same time ...
In fact, all those married men who borrow The Apartment could have stepped straight out of this book.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Flaming June, by Frederic, Lord Leighton

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Feeling disgruntled at having to work through the Jubilee weekend - even though I hadn't been planning to brave the crowds and the rain - I've been giving myself tea-breaks with The World's Wife, the Poet Laureate's brilliantly clever and funny collection of feminist poems. I loved The Kray Sisters.

There go the twins geezers would say
when we walked down the frog and toad
in our Savile Row whistle and flutes, tailored
to flatter our thr'penny bits, which were big,
like our East End hearts.

I loved the rhythms and her masterly (mistressly?) command of language. You can hear Carol Ann Duffy here reading her Jubilee offering but she's not a good reader and it's hard to hear what she's saying, so much better on the page.

I finished the poems - drank lots of tea - and even finished (most of) the work.

Monday 4 June 2012

Cheer up ye saints of God ...

There is a wonderful reading by Jeanette Winterson here - and in full - from the Sydney Writers' Festival.

Absolutely hilarious and yet again I am in awe of her skill as a writer.