Sunday 15 June 2014

An impromptu gathering of friends from out of town, hurriedly arranged at two hours notice ...

And everyone says, Well, you live there, you choose.

I feel weighted down by responsibility and my mind goes blank.

It has to be cheap. I have blown my cocktail budget at The Keeper's House.

It has to be convenient for public transport from east, west and south.

And we don't want anywhere hot, stuffy and crowded on a sunny evening.

For once in my life, I have a lightbulb moment. We will meet for drinks in a wildflower meadow with a river view. It is London's answer to the High Line, an oasis of green in a sea of concrete.

The gardening friend can admire the cabbages. The friend who doesn't drink very much can have a cup of tea. It shouldn't be crowded, I promise - fingers crossed - not even on a Saturday night.

As always, I'm late. And when I get there, I can't see anyone ... oh dear, perhaps they couldn't find the yellow staircase. And then I see the other ladies, admiring the cabbages just as I knew they would.

And the first thing they say is, oooh, we never knew this was here ...

And I am very pleased - and quite smug - that everyone is happy. (And thankful that it didn't rain.)

We have a lovely evening in the nearly-secret roof garden that everybody agrees was an Inspired Choice.

Saturday 14 June 2014

It was a warm evening, I'd spent an arduous afternoon on a park bench with my book and I didn't feel like going home, so I treated myself to a Italian-mamma sized icecream for a healthy dinner (pistachios are protein-packed, right?) and took myself off to a late movie.
I was curious to see Day of the Flowers as it's Carlos Acosta's film debut - although sadly, he only does a bit of light salsa-twirling. He's okay, his part wasn't exactly demanding. He plays a dance teacher who works as a part-time tour guide ... in fact, pretty much what he might well have been doing in real life had he not become an international ballet star.
The movie is a bit of a dog's dinner, but the budget clearly didn't run to rewrites. Two Glaswegian sisters, from feisty Scottish lassies central casting - hire two and the boyfriend in a kilt comes free - take their lefty dad's ashes to scatter them in Cuba. So, yes, it's a bad holiday rom-com except that there's a more interesting darker side of the movie - clumsily grafted on - addressing the poverty that forces the locals to prey on tourists.
The saving grace, of course, is Cuba - which is the real star of the film. It was filmed mostly in Havana (though it's supposed to be Trinidad de Cuba). Anyone who has ever been there leaves a part of their heart behind. Of course, it's poverty that fuels the spontaneous hospitality with which families invite you back to their homes ... it's private enterprise, but their warmth and Cuban graciousness is genuine. I went on a package tour. And ended up at a meeting of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution in someone's front room. (It's like Neighbourhood Watch.With a nasty bite.)
As for the day on the beach, when I was robbed of everything, including my shoes ... and walked barefoot back to my hotel in only my swimsuit (and that's a sight, I promise you) ... well, it was done with such charm that I had to laugh.
It was one of the best holidays I've ever had.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

It's not that often that London theatregoers give a real standing ovation but when we do, we mean it - and Kevin Spacey deserved every heartfelt Bravo when he brought the Old Vic audience to its feet this afternoon. Great performance of a fascinating play and an episode of American legal/labour history that was new to me.
(People are queuing for day seats from 7.30am, but I noticed a handful of empty seats and a woman I chatted to in the bar said she'd turned up on the off-chance and got a return.)
At the end, Kevin Spacey looked quite drained - and to think he had it all to do again in the evening.

I know it's not the same, but this isn't the first time that Spacey has played Clarence Darrow - and you can still find an old American Playhouse drama on YouTube. Haven't watched it myself so I'm not promising that it's all there.

On the way home I stopped off for cocktails in the garden at the new Keeper's House at the Royal Academy ... and decided it's my new favourite place to meet friends on a summer evening. Funny how one cocktail's never enough, and the second one ... oh dear, should know better at my age.

Monday 2 June 2014

There was just time on Friday to drive through Knole Park, which is like stepping into a time warp. So easy to imagine Henry VIII out deer-hunting ...

I was accompanied by someone who was there on the day in 1967 when the Beatles filmed Strawberry Fields Forever in the park.

It must be 30 years since I visited the house and I had forgotten how very beautiful it is, so I've promised myself to go back when I have time to go inside. (Rachel caught the atmosphere here.)

It put me in the mood for Bring Up the Bodies that evening, part 2 of the RSC's five and a half hour Hilary Mantel marathon. I was hoping to book to see both parts on the same day ... I'm so glad I didn't. The Aldwych theatre has the most bum-crunchingly uncomfortable seats in London.

So I saw Wolf Hall on Tuesday, and Bring Up the Bodies on Friday. It is absolutely riveting from start to finish, every bit as good as every 5* review promised ...

But still not quite as good as Hilary Mantel's superb book.

Stiff knees and aching bottom notwithstanding, I would happily sit through it again. But I read Wolf Hall twice, too.

I'm hoping that when Vol 3 is published, the RSC will finish what they've begun ...

Sunday 1 June 2014

My favourite London cinema is Ciné Lumière, comfy seats, no popcorn chobblers, nice French café, and quite often an interesting Q&A after the film.
Seems that lots of people are prepared to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon engrossed in French noir and  this 1989 adaptation of one of Simenon's romans durs - about a lonely voyeur suspected of murder - turned out to be taut, gripping, erotic, sad and brilliantly acted. The added bonus was a discussion afterwards with Simenon's biographers Pierre Assouline and Patrick Marnham.
Although the tetchy lady who dismissed the film as 'unhealthy' - what was she expecting, they're not called romans durs for nothing - made me wonder if there might be a market for wholesome noir. Noir lite?
There's another Simenon movie coming soon, but it doesn't sound as good.

So many temptations on the way home. I've managed to resist  this merveilleux meringue shop, not willpower, but I pass the icecream shop first. (Could I manage a double scoop of salted caramel and Nutella and then a stonking big meringue? Of course, I could. But probably best not. Frenchwomen don't get fat but I do. )